IRS-CI shows Dutch Caribbean investigators how to trace financial crimes tied to human trafficking


Date: May 10, 2022


WASHINGTON – Modern day slavery. Victims with physical and psychological trauma. Hidden in plain sight. Human trafficking is happening around us – often undetected – in communities across the globe, including the Dutch Caribbean. Investigators need to know what to look for and how to prove that a criminal act took place in a court of law, and that's why training and education are so important to combatting this heinous crime.

On Monday, May 9, two U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), trained about 30 Dutch Caribbean investigators in Curaçao on human trafficking, including how to recognize indicators and trace financial transactions linked to this crime. Nearly 30 additional investigators from Aruba, Bonaire and Sint Maarten participated in the training virtually.

"Human traffickers profit off people. By disrupting the money trail, you disrupt the criminal activity tied to it," said Guy Ficco, IRS-CI executive director for Global Operations and Policy Support.

Per the U.S. Department of State's 2020 Trafficking in Persons report, in Curaçao, human traffickers exploit both domestic and foreign nationals. Undocumented migrants, especially the growing population of Venezuelan nationals, are vulnerable to both sex and labor trafficking. Traffickers also exploit Curaçaoan and foreign women and girls, mainly Dominicans and Venezuelans, in sex trafficking, as well as migrant workers from other Caribbean countries, South America, China, and India in forced labor in construction, domestic servitude, landscaping, minimarkets, retail, and restaurants. Venezuelan migrants are vulnerable to exploitation by Spanish-speakers purporting to offer employment assistance in Curaçao.

"Traffickers prey on victims' vulnerabilities – whether that's low self-esteem or financial hardship," said Ficco. "Our job as investigators is to equip our law enforcement partners with tools to recognize how traffickers operate so they can combat trafficking activity."

In Curaçao, authorities identified three human trafficking victims in 2019 – all sex trafficking victims – compared with 44 victims – 16 victims of sex trafficking, 10 victims of labor trafficking, and 18 of both sex and labor trafficking – in 2018. Five trafficking victims were identified in 2017.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a nearly 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.