“Never underestimate the power you can have to make a difference.”

That was the statement investigative journalist and author Lydia Cacho impressed upon a room full of professionals attending the opening keynote at the ACAMS 17th annual AML & Financial Crime Conference in Las Vegas

Cacho, who has written multiple books including her 2003 debut title Los Demonios del Edén (which translates as “Demons of Eden”), shared perspectives from her encounters with corrupt law enforcement, human traffickers, drug dealers, and more to the anti-money laundering professionals present at the conference. Her knowledge, experience and analyses come from her investigative experience into the criminal underworld, which unfortunately led to her be imprisoned and tortured.

Her talk centered on her resourcefulness as an investigator, including how she infiltrated a brothel to better understand human trafficking and how people viewed their engagement in this sphere as not purely for pleasure, but more for power. She noted that trafficking rings often commit numerous other crimes, ranging from tax evasion, drug dealing and money laundering.

Cacho encouraged attendees to become more aware of how they can help confront these illicit activities. She noted that collaboration – with law enforcement, NGOs and other AML professionals – and information sharing as it relates to money laundering, tax evasion and more can enable authorities to intervene and make strides to disrupt human trafficking.

Thomson Reuters and the Thomson Reuters Foundation have worked in earnest to make an impact in this area. The Digital Economy Task Force produced a report and encouraged debate on the emerging digital economy while preventing the sexual exploitation of children and other criminal activity. Additionally, Thomson Reuters joined the UN University, a think tank established by the General Assembly within the UN System; the Permanent Missions of the UK and Lichtenstein to the UN; and the Grace Farms Foundation, a nonprofit foundation and retreat center; to issue a report, “Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict: 10 Ideas for Action by the UN Security Council.”

As one of the strongest advocates in this space, Cacho’s message to attendees was both inspirational and encouraging.