In the late 1990s and early 2000s, governments and activist organizations around the world set their sights on ending the business of human trafficking. Many groups emerged to assist victims of the crime, but few made progress toward eliminating the roots of the problem. Duncan Jepson, a lawyer for a Hong Kong–based bank, said he believed too little was being done to spotlight the shadowy criminal networks that typically crossed government jurisdictions and sometimes included otherwise legitimate businesses. Jepson decided that disrupting the trade in human beings required new types of collaboration to unravel criminal networks and confront the organizations that abetted their activities. In 2012, he founded a nongovernmental organization called Liberty Asia, which aimed to bridge institutional gaps and approach human trafficking from an economic perspective by using increasingly robust anti-money-laundering tools that were at the disposal of banks and bank regulators. This case profiles Liberty Asia’s efforts and focuses on the challenges associated with coordinating many different types of organizations to confront a common challenge.
Ann Toews drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in March 2017 and January 2018. Case published March 2018.