Slave Labor to Support US Contracts

By Kavinamannil, Sindhu; Vinci, Kimberly | Journal of International Peace Operations, May/June 2012 | Go to article overview

Slave Labor to Support US Contracts


Kavinamannil, Sindhu, Vinci, Kimberly, Journal of International Peace Operations


Fraud, Manipulation and Indentured Servitude

HUMAN trafficking on US government contracts in the Central Command ('CENTCOM") sector is chronic, overt and unabated. The appalling fact that hundreds of thousands of men have been used as slave laborers to support "freedom" operations is not lost upon the victims.

Investigative journalists reporting of widespread human trafficking of laborers on US government contracts in CENTCOM date back to 2004. The New York Times reported the too common fraudulent recruiting scheme that began in 2003 when contractors first started trafficking men to perform services on government contracts. The Chicago Tribune also covered human trafficking in 2005, calling out the use of US tax dollars to provide slave labor during wartime. Articles in USA Today have reported labor trafficking abuses of Asian workers in Saudi Arabia as well as forced labor of Thai workers in the United States, considered "the nations biggest human trafficking operation".

Personal investigations both on the ground in Iraq and in conducted interviews of victims who have returned to the Indian subcontinent, have produced conclusions consistent with other investigative journalists. Other investigative journalists such as David Phinney and reporters who have been on the ground, observed the practice and interviewed thousands of victims have also highlighted this blight on our national image. In fact, the only thing parties agree upon is that the practice is prolific, unabated and contrary to the very foundation and core of American values.

If everyone knows about it, why has it never been stopped?

Indentured Servitude, an Enduring Contingency Contracting Institution

The broad and credible coverage of human trafficking on US government contracts amounting to slave labor begs the question: If everyone knows about it, why has it never been stopped? The continued practice of modern day slavery on US government contracts cannot be attributed to a lack of Congressional interest or inaction, given that several Congressional committees have conducted hearings on the subject To date, Congress has passed some 19 pieces of legislation and prompted implementing regulations to combat the practice. The focal problem seems to be apathetic agencies in Washington that do not take action and preventative measures to stop the traffickers. Fortunately, that position appears to be shifting toward decisive action in an affirmative direction.

The Fraud Process

Although the names of the victims, recruiters and contractors change, there is a consistent business model used to defraud workers from developing nations to work on contracts and as a result become indentured servants to US government contractors and subcontractors. Our research has identified the following steps used to implement the fraud:

* Subcontractor/Prime contractor establishes direct contact with a recruiting company in the developing nation. The purpose of the personal contact by the subcontractor is to solidify the kickback scheme.

* Arrangements are made for the contracting company to pay the recruiter for the services of recruiting, Le. airfare to site, VISA and fees.

The contractor and recruiter also agree to the amount of the kickback paid to the contractor for giving the recruiting firm the business. This kickback is typically 50 percent of the money charged by the recruiter to the prospective employee. (This conduct constitutes a violation of the Anti-Kickback Act of 1986.)

Recruiter retains the services of subagents to solicit victims. This process facilitates the layering or onionskin affect in order to provide plausible deniability up the trafficking chain. The recruiter will solicit victims from farming villages who are typically without access to resources. This category of victim is also less sophisticated concerning the fraudulent techniques used by the recruiters.

The recruiter deceives the victim into believing he will receive money far beyond that which he will actually earn. …

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