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Human Trafficking and Its Financial Management in Italy

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Human Trafficking Finances

Part of the book series: SpringerBriefs in Criminology ((BRIEFSCRIMINOL))


Trafficking in human beings for sexual and labour exploitation in Italy is a dynamic and highly profitable illicit market especially, although not exclusively, for foreign organised crime groups such as the Nigerians, Chinese and East Europeans. This results in part from the high numbers of migrants arriving to Italy from Africa, due to the key role of the Central Mediterranean route within the migration flows. The main focus of the chapter is an analysis of the financial mechanisms of trafficking in human beings for sexual and labour exploitation , which is a topic that remains under-investigated. The financing aspects taken into consideration are financiers and the source of capitals to start and sustain the trafficking operations, the methods of payment, the costs of doing business, profits made and investment schemes of revenues. The findings presented here underline the need of some start-up capital to run the business, the use of cash for most transactions, the low costs and high revenues of trafficking operations, as well as informal banking systems and money transfers for money laundering .

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  1. 1.

    As stated by GRETA (2019: 9), there is “a significant gap between the [estimations provided] of assisted victims and the real scale of […] human trafficking in Italy , due to difficulties in the detection and identification of victims […], problems of data collection, and insufficient attention to trafficking for purposes other than sexual exploitation , as well as to internal trafficking. The authorities acknowledge that mixed migration flows make it difficult to distinguish between migrants and those who are trafficked and/or in need of international protection”.

  2. 2.

    Through annual calls addressed to NGOs and non-profit organisations, the Department of Equal Opportunities grants funds for interventions of social protection under Art. 18 of Legislative Decree n. 286/1998 on “Consolidated text of provisions regulating migration and the rules relating the status of foreign nationals” and under Art. 13 of Law n. 228/09 on “Measures against trafficking in persons”.

  3. 3.

    Most migrants from Africa and travelling by sea are recovered in shelter centres, named “Centri di primo soccorso e accoglienza (CPSA)”, where they receive first aid and are identified by law enforcement. These centres are located respectively in the cities of Agrigento and Lampedusa (Sicily); Cagliari and Elmas (Sardinia); Lecce and Otranto (Apulia); Ragusa and Pozzallo (Sicily). If the condition of ‘asylum seeker’ is recognised, migrants can obtain the residence permit to stay in Italy . In practice, their request is evaluated by a territorial commission that can either accept or refuse. In many cases, requests are refused and migrants have the right to appeal. In the meantime, and until the final decision of the commission is reached, they can remain in the national territory (IT-E15; IT-E24).

  4. 4.

    From Italian judicial cases on the trafficking of Nigerian women and girls, cults inspired by Evangelical-Christian and animist beliefs are active both in Nigeria and within Nigerian communities in Italy . These cults behave like criminal organisations and recruit members through a strict selective process. Their role is to support Nigerian OCGs in protecting businesses, recovering debts, and settling disputes. In few cases, their involvement in physical mutilations against competitors and ritual homicides has been detected in Italy (IT-E9; IT-E15) (see Carchedi 2016).

  5. 5.

    These places are respectively “Centri di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo—CARA” and “Centri di accoglienza straordinaria—CAS”.

  6. 6.

    The fact that farmers have to keep very low production costs depend on the dynamics of the globalised food market where their power to negotiate prices with industries that process their rough products is almost inexistent (IT-E11; IT-E16; IT-E23). As stated by one previous victim of labour exploitation (IT-E23) “In my opinion, the real gangmasters are food corporations that, through a mechanism of lowering costs, force farmers to resort to gangmasters to have labour force at a very low price to resist on the market”. Another reason for the use of gangmaster to hire day labourers is related to the cycles and timing of harvesting. In many cases, farmers need labour force in very short times (Ciconte and Liberti 2016).

  7. 7.

    This type of service has been defined by the Financial Action Task Force—FATF (2013: 15) “criminal Hawala , [a system] driven by illegitimate money flows and often controlled by criminals or criminal groups […]. These criminal networks are characterised by high value transactions between legal and natural persons that do not necessarily share the same cultural/geographic background”.

  8. 8.

    As suggested elsewhere (Leogrande 2016; Sagnet and Palmisano 2015), these wages (i.e., 3 euros per chest, or 3.50 euros per hour) are not aligned with national contract agreements for this type of work (4.40 euros as a minimum threshold for 6 and a half working hours per day).


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Correspondence to Georgios A. Antonopoulos .

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Antonopoulos, G.A., Di Nicola, A., Rusev, A., Terenghi, F. (2019). Human Trafficking and Its Financial Management in Italy. In: Human Trafficking Finances. SpringerBriefs in Criminology. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-17808-6

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