Argentine prosecutors are pursuing money laundering investigations into alleged human trafficking organizations suspected of hiding millions of dollars in illicit profits.
A report from the Argentine Prosecutor's Office for Economic and Money Laundering Crimes (Procuraduría de Criminalidad Económica y Lavado de Activos - PROCELAC) indicates multiple ongoing investigations into the money laundering activities of human trafficking organizations suspected of laundering nearly $9.3 million, reported La Nación.
The report contends that illicit funds, generated primarily by sex trafficking operations, were invested in casinos, construction projects, and other businesses, as well as used to buy luxury cars and gold bars.
Prosecutor Carlos Gonella told La Nación that, "As in all organized crime, you have to attack the profits of the organization. Prison time for the guilty is important, but going after their money is critical to ending this type of crime."
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking
Gonella noted that the investigations are the result of cooperation between PROCELAC and the Prosecutor's Office for Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Procuraduría de Trata y Explotación de Personas - PROTEX).
Among the networks being investigated is the well known "Clan Alé," a suspected criminal organization best known for its alleged role in the 2002 disappearance of trafficking victim Marita Verón, whose mother would go on to lead an internationally recognized fight against human trafficking in Argentina.
InSight Crime Analysis
These latest investigations may mark a shift in tactics as authorities try to combat Argentina's reputation as a regional trafficking hub. While the number of investigations related to human trafficking charges has risen in recent years, conviction rates remain low. Pursuing money laundering charges against suspected these groups could ultimately prove more effective as a prosecuting mechanism since securing eyewitnesses is a difficult task for any justice system seeking to take down sex trafficking rings.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
Since 2010, Argentina has been categorized as a "tier two" country, according to the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Person's Report, an upgrade from its previous designation as "tier two watch list." The 2015 report states that, "The Government of Argentina does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."
The International Labor Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, has reported estimates suggesting that forced labor generates global annual revenues of nearly $150 billion. Two-thirds of that estimated revenue are thought to be connected to forced commercial sexual exploitation, with the remaining third being connected to forced commercial labor exploitation.