As part of their strategy to attack the scourge of human trafficking, the Jamaican police are refining their activities to strike at those criminal who are seeking haven in Bitcoin and digital payments.

More and more human trafficking perpetrators are switching to digital currencies to help them burrow underground and receive payment for their illicit activities, but the police in Jamaica are on to them.

Big business in Jamaica

Unfortunately, the human traffic and sex slavery market is far larger than it should be, estimated to be worth around $150 bln. In Jamaica, it is estimated that there are 7,000 women, children and men living in slavery, with their handlers charging anywhere from $2 to $470 for their services.

The announcement of the crackdown came at two-day Anti-Money laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism Conference in New Kingston where law enforcement urged traditional banks to collaborate with the police in efforts to track the money trail that is making its way into the formal money system.

Bitcoin transactions

The police also noted the new challenges that were emerging in the form of digital currencies as these criminals burrow underground to use seemingly anonymous coins like Bitcoin and others.

There has been noticeable movement towards cryptocurrencies for criminals, including human traffickers. Their business transactions are kept away from the banks making the money trail much harder to follow. Additionally, these transactions are happening on the dark web.

“They are asking for payment in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, a new factor which creates problems for law enforcers,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Carl Berry.

Typically, Bitcoin transactions mask the identity of persons trading the cryptocurrency. But Berry said the Jamaica Constabulary Force has: “crafted a plan to treat with the flow of illicit money. We will hit them in the pocketbook.”

Progress made

Despite the high numbers estimated to be sold into modern slavery in Jamaica, the Island nation recently managed to get itself off an international watch list for human trafficking after securing four convictions and rescuing more than 70 victims.

But Berry cautioned that there was a lot more work to do.