The sex trafficking supply chain is composed of various stages or nodes. During one of these stages, the financial benefits are processed throughout the human trafficking networks. In a way, this stage is an ongoing process. Retailers are constantly reinvesting proceeds into their business by paying off government officials, buying new slaves, et cetera. These costs are a part of doing regular business. A major area of concern is the cover-up of human trafficking financial proceeds “through a series of transactions or investing them in legitimate businesses… so that there is a symbiotic relationship between upper- and underworld activities…” (OSCE, p. 20-23) For example, in a brief examination of Asian sex trafficking operations in the United States, Shelly found that much of the financial proceeds reaped from these operations were sent to China and Thailand to fund legitimate businesses such as gold shops (Shelly p. 124).

Retailing is the only place in this supply chain where new revenue is generated. All revenue generated in the sex trafficking supply chain flows outward from the retailer to all other links: traffickers, recruiters, corrupt state officials, victim families (in some cases), land/property owners, etc. Thus sexual slavery can only be suppressed if industry participants face greater risk and shrinking profits.  The United Nations argues that the best way to pursue these ends is to trace, seize, freeze, and confiscate the assets of industry participants (UNGIFT 2011). The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is currently leading the fight against the financial operations of human traffickers, holding conferences and publishing and great deal of information on the subject.


Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 2010. “Analysing The Business Model Of Trafficking In Human Beings To Better Prevent The Crime.”

Louise Shelly. 2010. Trafficking in Women: the Business Model Approach.

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