LONDON – Prosecutors from more than a dozen countries joined forces on Wednesday at a landmark summit aiming to boost the global fight against modern slavery by convicting more criminals and tracing dirty money.
The three-day event, the first of its kind, brings together prosecutors from countries including Albania, Nigeria and Sudan. They plan to work more closely to convict slavemasters and human traffickers, said Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“This summit is a step forward in helping us establish a strong, active international network of prosecutors to help tackle these serious crimes,” said Britain’s Attorney General Jeremy Wright in a statement ahead of the event in London.
The prosecutors will discuss improving efforts to confiscate illegal gains from traffickers in a trade estimated to generate $150 billion (108 billion pounds) a year, and how to better protect victims and witnesses to secure evidence, the CPS said.
They will also learn how to use various tools, data and resources including Interpol and Europol – the global and European law enforcement agencies – according to the CPS.
“We are here to ensure that the prosecution of perpetrators doesn’t flounder on the resolvable difficulties of working internationally,” said the UK’s anti-slavery chief Kevin Hyland.
Britain’s prosecutors said the country was well placed to lead by example, having passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015.
The landmark law introduced life sentences for traffickers, forced firms to check their supply chains for forced labour, and offered better protection for people at risk of being enslaved.
The CPS said it prosecuted 295 people suspected of trafficking and slavery crimes in Britain in 2016/17 – the last financial year with data available – up from 187 two years ago.
“Much of our progress in this area depends on quick and seamless communication and information-sharing with partners abroad,” said Alison Saunders, head of the CPS, which has 30 staff working overseas in countries such as Italy and Pakistan.
Other nations attending the summit included Argentina, Greece, Poland, Romania, the Netherlands and Sudan – which are source countries for both traffickers and victims, the CPS said.
The event follows a similar summit held in December which saw lawmakers from Commonwealth countries such as Ghana and Kenya meet British politicians to discuss laws against slavery.
More than 40 million people were living as modern slaves last year – either trapped in forced labour or forced marriages – according to the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) and human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Robert Carmichael; Credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation