by Neel Chakrabarti with Vincent Lyn



Pursuing human traffickers in Kherson


Praetorian Global recently partnered with Chris Lomas of the charity Hope4 to fight human trafficking and crime in Moldova. However, our exploration took us to the center of the Ukrainian conflict and uncovered a shocking tragedy taking place amongst the cataclysm of war. 

Two books have helped me make sense of the chaos experienced whilst conducting this investigation: 'The economics of violence: How behavioral science can transform our view of crime, insurgency and terrorism' by Gary M. Shiffman and 'Death in the City of Light' by David King. Both opened my eyes to the range and depth of war and the multiple of ancillary narratives that lay beneath the surface. 

'The economics of violence: How behavioral science can transform our view of crime, insurgency and terrorism' was the first of its kind to remove the demarcation boundaries assigned by identity labels that often contribute to grave misunderstandings. If it is accepted that an organized crime network, a non-state terrorist organization, an insurgent group and a hostile state all operate in an immutable, specific and completely independent way then the concept of confluence within these criminal markets is completely lost. Identity labels can often hinder as much as help, Especially when they lead to a category error. A good example of this is when considering the offense of terrorist financing. Terrorist financing is considered to be a criminal offense in which a suspect provides financial support to terrorist groups.That definition is only sufficient when defining the terrorist organization solely as a one-dimensional terrorist group with purely political goals. Many terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, ISIS, FARC etc double as organized crime gr oups running various criminal enterprises such as protection rackets. Thus, if a payment is demanded by a terrorist organization from a successful business, and this demand is not complied with, then the corporate infrastructure of the non-compliant business will be targeted with extreme violence. Once the payment is made they are viewed as supporting terrorism. The 'terrorist' financier could just as easily be termed a victim of extortion using a different definition. In short, this book appealed to fluidity, first principles and diversity of knowledge when trying to make sense of crisis .

The relevance of this perspective quickly became apparent during our investigation in Ukraine. The intelligence was related to state-sponsored forcible abductions of women and children in Ukraine from a Moldovan source. The significance of the intelligence transformed what was a human traffic ing investigation into a war Crimes Investigation. War Crimes Investigations Are General Conducted One Hostilities Have Ended. Ever, The Best Evidence is Collected at the Scene of the Alleged Crimes, as is user for any inversion. 

The identity of the perpetrators changed the very nature of the inquiry. Different strategies, tools and legal mechanisms became part of the investigative roadmap, which were wildly different from a traditional human trafficking investigation. The International Criminal Court is the only perman ent international court with Jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. There are strong arguments that either Article 6 (Genocide) or Article 7 (Crimes against humanity) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court have been violated. Article 7 appears the most relevant,but a further complication is that crimes against humanity lack a clear definition and there is an ongoing movement by the war crimes committee calling for a multilateral convention focusing on clarifying the aforementioned atrocity crime. 


Our investigations lead us to Odessa, Mykolaiv and then into highly-contested Kherson, which was at the time occupied territory. Interviews with locals, military personnel, church pastors and police failed to reveal any verifiable information that corroborated the pre-existing intelligence of specific war crimes. Recently various allegations of war crimes in Kherson have been made and we have no reservations of the validity of these allegations; we have simply discovered another tragedy that is running concurrently. After several interviews with witnesses, attempted victims and other sources we discovered that as the bombing campaigns intensify, there are groups of criminals (men and women) who approach vulnerable females on various dating applications and offer them a safe residence. The females meet the man from the dating app,who appears ostensibly sweet and pleasant; she then travels with him to the residence, which is nearby but in a more secure location. 

Shortly afterwards, various strategies of coercion are deployed, but the most common appears to be that the heating is switched off. This then compels the female to call her original 'saviour' who immediately sends someone to 'have a look'. She is informed that it will take a day or two to fix the heating and that he will accompany her to a different location whilst the repairs are being conducted. She is then taken much further out to an abandoned cellar where she is drugged and sedated. Then a message is sent out to various individuals who are informed that there is another woman who is available. She is then routinely and systematically abused whilst the conflict rages on outside. With limited police to investigate they are essentially doomed. We believe that there are countless females who are this tragic situation in Ukraine at the moment.

Whilst this revelation was both incredibly sad and unexpected, it reminded me of 'Death in the City of Light', which tells the true story of Marcel Petiot. This book was particularly harrowing as it detailed the actions of Petiot during the German occupation of France During World War 2. Petiot was a serial killer who posed as a doctor and offered safe passage for predominately Resistance fighters, Jews, women and common criminals. He was allegedly linked to a now relatively unknown intelligence agency named, 'The Pond.' The Pond was a very small and covert intelligence agency formed by the United States during World War 2. It was so secretive that it served as the perfect cover for individuals who wanted to present themselves as intelligence operatives as it was almost impossible to disprove ve of their connection to The Pond.

Marcel Petiot exploited the fear and horrors of war by murdering and robbing his own people, by offering safe passage for those who were vulnerable. His crimes went unpunished for many years until 23 dead bodies were found in his basement, though it is suspected he killed as many as 60 people. This book introduced me to the microcosm of war and the hidden layers of suffering that are routinely overlooked when considering the bigger picture. Whilst there is no evidence of an individual committing atrocities to the same level as Marcel Petiot , our Investigations lead us to possible suspects whose actions are deeply malevolent, the extent of which is unknown.With the right support we will be launching a full scale operation in the coming weeks with a view to recovering as many of these trafficking victims as possible and identifying the perpetrators responsible.


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