The UK’s financial institutions have long been alert to the dangers of money launderers. Stringent anti-money laundering regulations trace their roots to the early 1980s, and recent years have only seen the response to threats broaden and intensify. Terrorist financing, for instance, has risen up the agenda. Yet there is a source of dirty money that is often overlooked — the financial capital generated by modern slavery and human trafficking.
There are at present over 45.8 million people worldwide living in slavery, according to the latest Global Slavery Index. Conservative estimates suggest 13,000 of these individuals are in the UK alone — and with such significant levels of exploitation, illegal profits here are plentiful. The same index estimates that modern slavery generates $150bn a year, although sadly the real figure is likely much higher.
It is the modern-day slavers’ need for clean capital which draws them into the financial system.