Obama's plan against transnational crime sparks concern
Washington, D.C., United States
July 27, 2011 03:55 pm EDT
Crime, Law And Justice, Organized Crime, Crime, Law And Justice, International Law, International Court Or Tribunal, Politics, Diplomacy, International Relations
The Obama administration’s plan to disrupt the financial operations of transnational crime organizations is sparking concern in other countries.
They are wondering how U.S. Justice Department action against crime syndicates in Mexico, Japan, Eastern Europe and Italy will affect them.
“Everything done in that effort will somehow have repercussions in Mexico, one way or another,” says an editorial in the Mexican newspaper El Sol Del Istmo.
The editorial writer also claimed to be “surprised” by Obama’s announcement because targeting crime groups in Mexico ultimately would lead back to their powerful associates in the United States.
Obama issued a presidential order this week that authorizes freezing financial accounts and property of organized crime groups. It also would impose penalties against anyone who assists them.
Four groups included on the list for the Justice Department are Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel; the Yakuza, a Japanese underworld organization; the Camorra, a southern Italy mafia network; and the Brothers’ Circle, an Eastern European group with worldwide operations.
A 28-page report accompanying the presidential order said transnational crime groups often set up operations in countries with weak law enforcement and hide their assets in shell corporations and offshore bank accounts.
“The fluid nature” of their operations makes them “increasingly difficult” to track down, the report said.
In addition, “a shift in U.S. intelligence collection priorities since the September 11, 2001 attacks left significant gaps” in intelligence-gathering on transnational crime groups.
Obama wrote in a foreword to the report that “Transnational criminal organizations have taken advantage of our increasingly interconnected world to expand their illicit enterprises.”
He encouraged other countries to participate with the United States in stopping crime that crosses international borders.
Obama also wrote a letter to Congress in which he said organized crime represents a threat to international stability.
His warning about the worldwide threat follows closely a statement by Louise I. Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University in Virginia, who wrote, “Transnational crime will be a defining issue of the 21st century for policymakers, as defining as the Cold War was for the 20th century and colonialism was for the 19th. Terrorists and transnational crime groups will proliferate because these crime groups are major beneficiaries of globalization. They take advantage of increased travel, trade, rapid money movements, telecommunications and computer links, and are well-positioned for growth.”
International efforts against transnational crime consist largely of trying to coordinate actions of law enforcement agencies in different countries.
Interpol, an international police network, operates by transferring information about fugitives and transnational crime to countries that are likely to be affected by them.
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime has tried to develop cooperation between its member countries by encouraging extradition and technical training.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week described a strategy with 56 priority actions to protect the U.S. financial system from transnational crime. The strategy was based on a Justice Department review of the threats the groups pose.
Justice Department officials say their review shows international criminals have become sophisticated enough to represent a significant threat to competitive markets.
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