WASHINGTON — An aggressive global response is needed to counter organized crime syndicates, which are increasingly teaming up with terrorist networks and drug traffickers, U.S. and international law enforcement officials said Monday at a conference in Singapore.
Deputy U.S. Atty. Gen. David Ogden and some of his counterparts, speaking at the 78th general assembly of the global police agency Interpol, acknowledged that they needed to cooperate better on many fronts.
Of particular interest, they said, are emerging money-laundering pipelines that are enabling crime syndicates to flourish in terrorist hot spots such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and other strategic locations, including Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Ogden told delegates that they needed to act more forcefully to combat transnational organized crime groups whose proceeds now comprise up to 15% of the global gross domestic product.
In his speech and in a recent interview with The Times, Ogden said the criminal groups' newfound economic clout had enabled some to neutralize and co-opt a wide array of political, judicial and law enforcement institutions, especially in countries destabilized by conflict or economic depression.
Mexican drug cartels, South Asian heroin-trafficking clans, and traditional crime families from Asia and the former Soviet-bloc countries are continuing threats, Ogden said.
He told the delegates that "criminal organizations can and do use their economic power to target individual public officials, public institutions and even entire countries to look for new victims and new markets. We are now witnessing in many parts of the world what U.S. Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy almost a half-century ago presciently condemned in my own country as the 'private government of organized crime.' "
Ogden added that the lack of coordinated response by law enforcement agencies had allowed the crime syndicates to become stronger, better-equipped and able to forge closer ties with one another and with terrorist groups and corrupt government officials.
"Encumbered in many ways, law enforcement has not been as quick to adapt to globalization, and criminals are well aware of this fact," Ogden said.
Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, speaking at the conference Monday, said his country had experienced first-hand the dangerous synergy among Al Qaeda, radical Islamic militants and organized crime and drug-trafficking groups.
"Terrorists have no boundaries, no religion," he said, according to the Associated Press. "This is the time we have to sit together and put our heads together. The cooperation needs to be even more effective."
Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, has been struggling since its inception in 1923 to coordinate global crime-fighting efforts.
Ogden and other delegates urged their colleagues to work more closely with the international agency.
Ogden and other delegates also warned that law enforcement agencies needed to boost intelligence sharing and support the passage of strong laws to combat money laundering and to make it easier to seize criminal assets.
They said law enforcement agencies must stop feuding over turf and needed to weed out corrupt officials so there could be greater trust among agencies.
In his interview with The Times, Ogden said he was trying to forge closer cooperation among at least nine U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, in part through the creation of a new International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center.