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Project Information

Unchained project has a duration of thirty months and involves four partners and one third party plus the project coordinator:

One Prosecutor Office, three LEAs and three organizations specialized in security from the perspective of the civil society. The project is funded by the European Commission under the Internal Security Fund.

The main objectives of

are to
Enhance the capacity of specialised officers and investigators operating within counter-trafficking, counter-organised crime, and financial investigation units to use financial enquiries & big-data analytics in suspected THB cases;

Strengthen the capacity of private businesses and public authorities to identify suspicious financial activity and follow standardised reporting procedures for close cooperation with LEAs.

The dynamic nature of trafficking in human beings (THB) and the plurality and complexity of its forms make it notoriously difficult to investigate. Yet despite this complexity, it remains a heavily profit-driven crime that is profoundly difficult to operate without leaving a financial footprint.

Exploiting this fact, the work will start from the analysis of common crimes and of the interrelation between the so-called common crimes and different forms of serious crimes, particularly trafficking in human beings and organized crime.

The basic approach will be the follow-the-money one, therefore the whole project will be focused on the key topic of financing and funding this type of high profit activities. The specific objectives are:

The understanding of the phenomenon, so the interrelation of the so-called poly-crimes phenomenon; this has several implications at a level of jurisdiction, considering the number of actors involved;

Improving the financial analysis capacity of LEAs and Prosecutor Offices, in cooperation with private organizations managing key data to identify perpetrators and the modi operandi of different groups;

Enhancing the skills, the know-how and the competences of the first line practitioners within their own specific jurisdiction to identify and report suspicious financial activities;

In the last part the project, raising awareness on emerging trends in the field of countering THB.

The final aim is designing a toolkit for LEAs, based on empirical results; the focus is on how financial investigations and big data analysis can be used, through which tools and with what methodologies. The first point of the activity will be how public and private bodies can work using tools which can scrape and get information and data from different sources.

The training, reaching 200 beneficiaries in 5 pilot countries through train-the-trainers, and many more throughout the EU following project completion, fosters cross-border and cross-sector cooperation through multiplayer virtual reality serious gaming (VRSG), based on real-life case studies and business model trends elicited by the project’s own research. The project will further establish a European Expert and Trainers’ Network that promises to further the scope of the training long beyond project completion. The activities focus on cooperation, standardisation, and innovation in training methodologies and investigative techniques, based on a broader understanding of financial investigation, as defined by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as ‘an enquiry into the financial affairs related to a criminal activity, with a view to identifying the extent of criminal networks and/or the scale of criminality; identifying and tracing

terrorist funds or any other assets that are, or may become, subject to confiscation; and developing evidence which can be used in criminal proceedings.’ [1]



• New knowledge
• Elicitation of trends in criminal proceeds
from THB

• Better understanding of current modi operandi in
THB financial flows among relevant practitioners
• Sharing of European best practices and
• Development of two sustainable and adaptable
training curricula
• Innovation and advancement in police training
through VRSG



• Expansion of the use of financial investigation in
counter-SOG operations
• Earlier identification of illicit monetary flows &
potential links to THB
• A culture of public and private cooperation culture
• New skills and capabilities in applying financial



In 2015 and 2016, the European Commission reported 20,532 registered victims of trafficking in human beings (THB) within the EU. These victims have been coerced into an industry that is estimated to generate annual global profits of 29,4 billion Euros for the criminals involved. Yet despite the scale of the crime, annual convictions and prosecutions remain concerningly low (2,927 and 5,979 respectively, in the EU), exposing it as a low-risk, high-return crime.

A wide range of approaches have been applied in attempts to prevent trafficking, but past efforts have proven largely ineffective in reducing the scale of the phenomenon, allowing for a dramatic growth in estimated proceeds (from $32 billion in 2011, to $150.2 billion in 2018).

The complex nature of THB and the consequent disparity in understandings of the phenomenon have meant that efforts to counter it frequently fail to address the issue in its entirety.

UNCHAINED, however, understands that trafficking in human beings is not a single crime, but a multi-crime process, as reflected in the 2000 Palermo Protocol art. 3 definition trafficking in persons, outlining the necessary presence of an act, a means, and a purpose (AMP model), while also viewing the phenomenon in a broader context of international crime.

Existing approaches largely target the components of the trafficking chain individually – from victim vulnerability factors, recruitment, and border crossings, to exploitation and demand – and fail to address THB in relation to other forms of OC. UNCHAINED, however, understands that trafficking in human beings is not a single crime, but a multi-crime process, as reflected in the 2000 Palermo Protocol art. 3 definition trafficking in persons, outlining the necessary presence of an act, a means, and a purpose (AMP model), while also viewing the phenomenon in a broader context of international crime.


Almost irrespective of the modus operandi employed in a THB case and the form of exploitation a victim is subjected to (as per art. 2(3) Directive 2011/36/EU), financial motivations and transactions accompany each stage of the process. Therefore, by investigating the business models behind THB and through that, its relationship to other crimes (such as ML, migrant smuggling, and drug trafficking), the range of actors and decision makers involved (knowingly or otherwise) and their modi operandi can be exposed and, ultimately, prevented.

A 2015 Europol report on “The THB Financial Business Model” expressed concern at the limited prioritisation of financial investigations in counter-THB operations, while RUSI and ECORYS research both emphasise the unnecessarily restricted use of financial enquiries to financial crimes. Yet financial investigations can be a central component of broader SOG policing by helping to identify the scale of OGCs, evidencing offenders’ lifestyles, tracking movements, placing people at particular places at particular times, identifying additional offences and offenders, locating assets, and identifying ownership and use of properties.


The project will build upon the holistic approach adopted by the EU funded FLOW project (2018-2020), which explores THB business models for labour exploitation, and the OSCE 2019 Report “Following the Money” which adopts a follow-the-money approach to countering THB more broadly, but will dig deeper to elicit the ways in which business models vary according to the form of exploitation.

This will allow for a more specific investigative strategy, using innovative softwares for bid data analysis, and more targeted training in order to tackle the widespread impunity underpinning each link in the human trafficking chain. Crucially, by focussing on financial footprints and less on victim testimony, the follow-the-money approach allows the rights and needs of victims, who are often instrumentalised in THB investigations and prosecutions, to be protected without compromising the result of the operations.


Unchained project is organised into


over 30 months:

This activity is concerned with the general oversight of the project, ensuring all tasks are completed to a high standard, in a timely manner, and in accordance with the project budget. It includes support for financial and progress reporting, as well as leadership of communication with the European Commission and among partners.

IT-MOJ will lead this task with their dedicated Coordination Team (Project
Manager, Administration Coordinator, Financial Coordinator, for setting-up/organising/management structures, and for implementing management/coordination processes, decision making & conflict resolution, risk assessment & mitigation planning). Under IT-MOJ’s lead, all co-applicants will contribute to these activities, including through financial and progress reporting.


This WP aims to elicit the predominant business models used to process criminal proceeds from THB. Based on the collection of past THB cases that have exposed the network of actors involved in THB and the transactions that have linked them, a comprehensive, up-to-date roadmap will be developed, showing the key trends in financial transfers between those involved (knowingly or unknowingly) in the trafficking chain. The roadmap will highlight the different interception points and the sectors with which law enforcement must cooperate in order to identify and follow suspicious financial actions. The roadmap will focus on new and emerging trends within Europe, exploring the ways in which business models vary according to the different forms of exploitation and the different actors involved (both in terms of perpetrators (e.g. OCG, ethnic or familial ties), facilitators, and victims (e.g. men, women, children, disabled)).


During the training phase of the project, the roadmap will serve as a reference point on initiating THB investigations and progressions to these from reports of other financial crimes, guiding practitioners on which actors to involve and which legal and technical tools to employ. The Roadmap will furthermore highlight where the target beneficiaries of the UNCHAINED training should be engaged, the respective tools and methods they can mobilise, and how best they can cooperate with each other.

The aim of this WP is to develop all the necessary material and carry out all preparatory activities for the training implemented in WP4. It will build heavily upon the research carried out in WP2, responding to the financial business models predominantly used in THB cases today. This will include the following objectives:


  • Design Toolkits: for LEAs & for private and public sector representatives who are well-positioned to identify anomalous financial activities (especially financial providers, high value trading and cash-rich industries, social benefit administration, labour inspectorates etc.).


  • Recruitment Campaigns for the LEA ToTs & for the private business & public authority ToTs;


  • Develop and finalise the LEA training material and course structure, based on the Toolkit for LEAs, including its integration into the HERMES training platform;


  • Develop and finalise the training material and course structure for private businesses and public authorities, based on the relevant UNCHANED Toolkit.

This WP works to:


  • Build a network of experts and trainers to enhance the capacity of European LEAs to counter trafficking in human beings through a follow-the-money approach, which can be sustained beyond project completion


  • Deliver specialised VR-based training to a network of trainers from the European law enforcement sector using the Train the Trainers (ToT) methodology and based on the UNCHAINED LEA Toolkit. The training aims to enhance the use of financial investigation (as understood by the FATF 2012 definition) in order to advance investigations into trafficking in human beings.


  • Deliver specialised VR-based training to representatives from private businesses and the public sector using the Train the Trainers (ToT) methodology, and based on the UNCHAINED Toolkit for private businesses and public authorities. The training aims to strengethen the target group’s capacity to identify indicators of illicit financial transactions or anomalous or suspicious financial activities and offer concrete guidelines for reporting procedures and cooperation with LEAs.

This WP aims to define and implement the dissemination and exploration activities that will ensure the maximum success of the project during the entirety of its life cycle and to promote the sustainability of this beyond project termination. The WP will expand the dissemination and communication strategy outlined in section 5.2.4 and ensure participation of all consortium members in this. More concretely, WP5 will:


  • Raise awareness of the main business models used and actors involved in the THB chain; indicators of illicit financial flows; 3. the relationship between financial crime and trafficking in human beings. This will be based on the results of WP2 and WP3.


  • Communicate project development to relevant stakeholders and targeted user communities, encouraging engagement with the project.


  • Coordinate all forms of exploitative actions of the knowledge resulting from the project, to relevant stakeholders both in the EU and in third countries.


Consortium partners

Third Party

Member State

The financial scope of the project allows for a fairly small consortium located across five Members States (Italy, Germany, Greece, Moldova and Spain), allowing for operational project activities and pilots to take place primarily in these five locations, with the potential for a wider geographical roll-out following project completion.

The five countries directly covered by the project actions are sufficient in revealing considerable variation in the human trafficking chain, in terms of countries of origins of victims, rates of domestic trafficking, countries of origin of convicted traffickers, places of exploitation, legal frameworks, relationships with other forms of organised crime, etc.

LEA involvement.

As a key beneficiary of the project and an important source of both primary and secondary data, the participation of LEAs throughout UNCHAINED is essential for its success.

For this reason, the JUDICIARY POLICE of PADUA, the HOCHSCHULE FÜR ÖFFENTLICHE VERWALTUNG BREMEN have been, and will continue to be, heavily involved in the design and evaluation of the project activities. Additionally, the inclusion of the Moldovan General Police Inspectorate of Moldova as a Third Country within the project will provide an added value for the testing of a new technology for investigation, the design and validation of the training courses and the implementation of a pilot in Moldavia.

Research and training Expertise.

KEMEA, AGENFOR and FUNDEA contribute extensive research capacity and experience in the field of security and multi-sectoral and cross-border approaches to prevention.

They have a high level of expertise in implementing training within the scope of EU funded projects, including the highly successful implementation of innovative Virtual Reality and b-learning techniques.

European Expert & Trainers’ Network

In order to facilitate continued best practice and knowledge, Unchained aim to create a network of experts and trainers to enhance the capacity of European LEAs to counter trafficking in human beings through a follow-the-money approach;

The network brings together interdisciplinary practitioners throughout the EU and extending meeting invitations to experts from third countries), UNCHAINED fosters cross-border dialogue for sharing best practices in investigative models, LEA training, public-private partnerships, and new nationally identified trends in financial crime and THB. The aim of the network, holding six-monthly virtual meetings chaired by the Judicial Police of Padua, is to foster relationships that can be sustained and expanded after project completion.

If you are interested in the EU Trainer´s Network, access project resources, get involved as an expert, take part in UNCHAINED train the trainers program, provide materials and deliver training activities, please contact us at: