In The Name Of Progress

Illegal Human Labor Trafficking Within Government Contracts

By Sindhu P. Kavinnamannil, CFE;Sam W. McCahon, J.D., LLM


The people most likely to become victims of human labor trafficking are nationals of the poorest of countries who are working in unskilled and semi-skilled positions on military bases in Iraq and  Afghanistan. The authors’ investigations have revealed widespread fraud. 


  The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the ACFE, its executives or employees. – ed. 


2011-MayJune-illegal-trafficI steeled myself as I drove into an Iraqi labor camp that supported U.S. base operations. It was the middle of a summer day with temperatures climbing to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. My company was establishing a corporate compliance program for the firm providing these operations to the U.S. Army. We had already interviewed several hundred men during the assessment phase, and I (Sindhu) needed to do some follow-up.   

As I drove in, I saw a man carrying a four-foot stick beating some men and shouting obscenities at them. The men were company employees waiting in a long line outside one of the trailers. I jumped out of the vehicle, ran toward them, grabbed the stick and demanded to know what he was doing. He said, "Madam, I was placed in charge of these men to keep them in line until the meals arrive." One of the employees, "Kumar," from India, whom I had interviewed during a prior visit, came forward and said, "Madam, we have been waiting in this line the past four hours; we are hungry, thirsty and tired from waiting in this hot sun. We need our food soon, or let us go back to our trailer and have some water. Madam we need help! 

"The last three months we have been facing this problem," Kumar said. "Also, we don't have toilet paper and soap, and above all, we are not given a chance to call home." I asked about Kumar's friend, "Ramesh," a fellow villager whom I had also interviewed a few weeks earlier. "Ramesh is no more!" Kumar said.


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