Anti-Illicit Trade Institute Course Begins; Meet the Co-Director

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David Luna: ‘It’s a complex world, and we need more leaders and to help inspire them to solve these challenges.’

Originally published on November 10, 2020

A first-ever state-accredited certificate in illicit finance has been generating great interest globally. This fall, practitioners from around the world quickly filled the virtual classroom with 71 professionals eager to learn more about the impact of cross-border threats posed by illicit finance and trade-based money laundering to national security, international trade, and law enforcement.

The executive education course is the first offering of the Schar School of Policy and Government’s new Anti-Illicit Trade Institute (AITI), housed in the school’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCCC).

The eagerness to learn about pressing international issues and the enthusiasm for the course is not surprising to AITI’s founders, but “it is remarkable,” said TraCCC founding director and Schar School professor Louise Shelley, pointing out the international response and the participation of students from around the world.

David M. Luna, who is co-director of AITI, said the new course reflects how today’s illicit economies across global security landscapes are becoming more complex and help fuel greater insecurity and instability. For more than 25 years, Luna has helped countries, markets, and communities better understand the harms posed by illicit trade—and how to combat it.

After serving as a senior U.S. diplomat and national security official, Luna created Luna Global Networks & Convergence Strategies LLC, a consultancy that addresses what he calls “the dark side of globalization.”

Luna believes that it is important for the current generation of students to gravitate to public service to make a positive difference in the world. His goal is to help students understand “the processes of government and to be able to formulate national security policies…It’s a complex world, and we need more leaders and to help inspire them to solve these challenges. It’s also important to mentor and support them.”

As part of AITI, Luna hopes to establish a new fund for more paid internships and to support interested students to focus their research on transnational threats.

Luna grew up in El Paso, Texas, as one of five sons to Mexican-American parents, both of whom were blind. “They instilled tremendous values in their children, to respect other cultures and communities, to appreciate the value of education, and to do good in the world and locally,” he said.

That appreciation of other cultures inspired Luna toward the fields of diplomacy and global security. After college at the University of Pennsylvania and graduating law school, Luna launched a career on Capitol Hill, working as a law clerk for the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee to Investigate Whitewater and Related Matters. Later, Luna worked in the White House Office of the Counsel to the President, and on congressional and inter-governmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Luna spent nearly 20 years at the U.S. Department of State, working on strengthening international cooperation to fight corruption, organized crime, and terrorism, including traveling to 65 countries on important foreign policy priorities. Luna said he hopes “AITI and TraCCC continue to educate tomorrow’s leaders and stewards of global security across sectors and all corners of the globe.”