INTERVIEW-Follow the money to fight human trafficking, top Interpol director says

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By Fabio Teixeira

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - C ountries and companies need to share financial data if they hope to stop human trafficking, connecting governments and companies that often do not work together to fight crime, a top Interpol director said on Wednesday.

Encouraging the private sector to share information, governments can help international authorities get access to sensitive data from financial institutions and industries, said Paul Stanfield, who oversees organized and emerging crime units at Interpol.

"We need access to data that is not in law enforcement's hands, that is held by private industries, by the banking sector," he said to Thomson Reuters Foundation from Interpol's global conference on human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Modern slavery is believed to generate illegal profits of about $150 billion a year, according to the International Labour Organization.

To stop human traffickers, law enforcement agencies need to focus less on big busts and more on following the money, he said. "It's all about the money. If you want to tackle organized crime, you have to go after the money," he said.

"It is a tall order, it's difficult, and it's challenging."

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This year's conference focused on data, technologies, information sharing and cross-sector cooperation.

Head of Interpol's organized and emerging crime units since 2017, Stanfield said the use of financial data by law enforcement may weaken efforts by criminal enterprises to make huge illicit profits.

"It's the motivation for the crime in the first place. If we make it more difficult to make money, they will look elsewhere."

Interpol, with 194 member countries, provides data, training and operational support to law enforcement agencies.

In April, security ministers from the Group of Seven (G7), the seven largest advanced economies, gave their official support to Interpol to help fight human trafficking. (Reporting by Fabio Teixeira; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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