Pointing out the uncertain times that came with much of 2020 now seems passé. We have all experienced it, and have witnessed the effect on our lives, some positive and some, tragically, not so. While the vaccines are now starting to roll out across the world, it will still be many months before 2021 delivers some semblance of normality to our daily lives. During this time, I’ve been truly humbled by our staff at Ripjar for their dedication and hard work – in the first week of lockdown we moved from 3 physical offices across three diverse cities in the UK – Cheltenham, Bristol and London – to being an effective, exclusively remote working hive mind, continuing seamlessly to serve our customers across four continents. It has been a pleasure and I thank them all for their dedication, professionalism and service.
But while our software engineers and data scientists have continued to innovate during this time, so too have the global criminal networks that we aim to stop. The criminal fraternity have sought to take advantage, defrauding government programmes designed to help protect the vulnerable, crafting elaborate scams and impersonation frauds, and turning to cybercrime – using ransomware to intimidate and extort, even targeting the very institutions that we have relied to fight the pandemic itself.
This latest surge in criminal enterprise is sadly just the latest evidence that organised crime networks are largely succeeding in funnelling billions out of the global economy, and successfully laundering those proceeds into luxury lifestyles, and further expansion of criminality that target millions of innocent victims.
One such group of victims are those trapped in the horror of modern slavery. Criminal gangs operate all over the world with as many as 40 million victims working only for the benefit of others, their basic freedom and labour exploited without any concern for wellbeing or basic human dignity. Ending trafficking of persons and modern slavery is of paramount importance, but it is a problem only recently attracting enough attention to tackle. In an increasingly globalised economy, supply chains are complex and intricate – the subtle and hidden signals of human exploitation can be spread across multiple organisations. It will take a revolution in due diligence, whether in the global banking system, logistics providers, energy companies and the law enforcement community to raise the barrier to entry and deter criminals from this most destructive crime. This is something my colleague David Balson has written extensively about here, but there is far more to be done and I see Ripjar technology at the forefront of this war.
The criminal thirst for money may have even more widespread consequences. Let us not also forget the genesis of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the risk factor of a future zoonotic virus causing the next pandemic. When exotic animals are traded and trafficked by criminal gangs, the risk of a pathogen being passed between the animals and then onto humans becomes greatly increased. Today, the illegal wildlife trade, facilitated by online communications, e-commerce, and social networks is sadly another billion-dollar industry. In satiating consumer demand for products and consumables from endangered species, elephants, rhinos, tigers, or even pangolins – the destruction of our natural world has been accelerated by criminal enterprise. Working with the financial sector to improve detection of illegal wildlife trafficking and other environmental crimes is becoming key to future due diligence capabilities for new and exciting ESG funds, and I am delighted to see the economic benefits of these pay off.
Lastly, this year has seen unprecedented discussion around transparency and the effectiveness of information sharing to prevent money laundering. The revelations of the “FINCEN Files” back in September prompted our strategic advisor Graham Barrow to discuss how banks and law enforcement could better work together on joining the dots between information in the private and public sector, potentially moving beyond the current Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regime. Just this week, the US House of Congress passed a landmark bill on corporate transparency, which will mean far greater transparency on ownership structures and previously anonymous ultimate beneficiaries, with far more data sharing and collaboration between international partners. Transparency is a vital weapon to fight financial crime, removing the shadows where criminals hide is vital if we are to stem the tide against the worldwide networks of dirty money that fuel crimes like human trafficking, modern slavery, wildlife exploitation and fraud.
So, it is on those points that I see Ripjar ideally poised to help companies, financial institutions and government agencies fight this plague of criminality. We have spent the last two decades working in data intelligence technology and designing systems that help investigators investigate, automate and monitor criminal threats. Our technology platform is now used in dozens of countries to detect risk in supply chain and counterparty relationships, perform real-time checks on millions of clients to detect financial crime risk and join the dots between hundreds of data sources to unpick the networks of cybercriminals and terrorists.
I also see our technology at the heart of these emerging global trends. We have taken lessons from our work in the cybersecurity sector on information sharing and common data formats that can be applied to similar effect within the financial crime sector. This will transform the way investigators can share machine-readable data between each other, providing law enforcement and financial intelligence units (FIUs) with new tools to see the complete picture of how organised criminals move their money and profit from the misery and suffering of others. Additionally, with increasing scrutiny on the integrity and ethics of supply chains, our due diligence technology will also grow to play a bigger role in the detection of modern slavery and environmental crime. Our advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology, which today reads and interprets over 3 million articles a day, even provides us with the basis to conduct the large-scale detection of ‘fake’ news and propaganda, especially important during this time where society needs truthful information on vaccines and increasing the integrity of the information environment to resist extremists.
With our recent funding announcement from Long Ridge, Ripjar is equipped to supply software for the future of countering these serious and endemic threats to our world. We are using that money to recruit, and we will be advertising for many opportunities as we continue to grow.
With that mission in mind, and the technology and people that we have at Ripjar I am optimistic that we can work with leading organisations to tackle the pandemic of crime the world faces, and I am sincerely looking forward to the next year and the new wave of hope that it will be bringing.
Jeremy Annis, CEO