Trans-Atlantic Symposium On Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
May 19, 2011

Lisbon, Portugal

Summary by the Co-chairs of the Proceedings of the Symposium

1. More than 300 senior law enforcement and other government officials from over 65 countries on both sides of the Atlantic – including from the Americas, West Africa, and Europe – as well as representatives of regional and international organizations, attended the Trans-Atlantic Symposium on Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks (Symposium) in Lisbon from 16-19 May 2011.

2. The Symposium was co-hosted by the European Union (EU) and the United States, and organised by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the U.S. Department of State. Participants also warmly thanked the Government of Portugal, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), and the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre-Narcotics (MAOC-N) for their hospitality and support.

3. The over-arching theme for the Symposium was “Fighting Networks with Networks”, to highlight a shared commitment to inter-regional collaboration to combat the transnational criminal threats and illicit networks that have become increasingly prominent across the trans-Atlantic region, especially in West Africa.

4. Participants pointed out a number of evolving trends of increasing concern:

  • In recent years, transnational threats and networks have converged in more dangerous and destabilizing ways. Criminal networks are expanding and diversifying their activities, smuggling billions of dollars of illegal goods into our jurisdictions, trafficking in drugs, arms, and humans, smuggling counterfeit products, as well as embezzling public funds and bulk cash derived from criminal enterprises. These activities cost our economies jobs and tax revenue and endanger the safety and welfare of our people.
  • Transnational criminal and illicit networks are moving between the licit and illicit worlds, creating safe havens and hubs from which to export their illicit trade. In the process, they weaken trust and integrity in justice, markets, and communities alike. By allying themselves with corrupt elements of national governments, especially in states with economies and political institutions in transition, and using those elements to further their criminal activities, they undermine regional security and prosperity.
  • Today’s organized crime networks are also becoming more transnational and trans-regional in nature. They are agile and can adapt to the countermeasures taken by individual states or groups of states. A coordinated response at the trans-regional level is thus necessary to contain, disrupt and dismantle these networks effectively.
  • These converging threats include: drug flows between Latin America, West Africa, and Europe; illicit financial flows between West Africa, South America and Europe; human smuggling; trafficking in persons; money laundering/illicit finance; the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons; corruption; porous borders; and the crime-terror nexus.
  • Better intelligence is needed on the links between terrorist groups and criminal and illicit networks, including with drug cartels in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as better data collection, mapping and analysis of trafficking flows and collaboration between Latin American Cartels, Eurasian-based syndicates, and West African criminal gangs.
  • Recent large seizures of cocaine indicate that West Africa may be experiencing a revival of the cocaine trade following a two year decline, driving growth in demand for illicit drugs in the region, which has experienced an increase in drug abuse over the past few years.

5. The proceedings of the Symposium highlighted the importance of translating political will and common resolve into concrete results. Participants identified a number of promising areas where increased operational co-operation could lead to practical outcomes:

  • Launching an informal Trans-Atlantic Network: which would promote and support the establishment of networks and platforms of law enforcement and judicial practitioners at the regional/sub-regional level. Such platforms could subsequently be inter-connected. This initiative would facilitate the exchange of information/ intelligence and facilitate legal assistance. It could also promote best practices (such as joint investigation teams) within and between regions.
  • Combating high-level corruption and denying safe haven, including visas, to criminals, and other illicit or corrupt actors.
  • Promoting effective law enforcement practices and tools, such as mutual legal assistance, in connection with criminal investigations or proceedings aimed at combating transnational corruption, organized crime, and illicit networks.
  • Strengthening collective capacities to counter trans-regional threats, including seeking greater coordination and synergies between multilateral and regional efforts as well as operational and information centers.
  • Improving the understanding of emerging threats, including identifying gaps and needs.
  • Looking for opportunities to co-ordinate U.S., EU, and other law enforcement assistance and training on trans-Atlantic threats in West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Seeking opportunities to co-ordinate with key Latin American states to help build capacity in West Africa.
  • Examining ways in which international scientific collaboration could promote research, data collection and analysis of the scale and scope of transnational organized crime and the evaluation of law enforcement practices to ensure their effectiveness.

6. Participants also pointed to a number of factors which they saw as important to take into account in future efforts to enhance communication and coordination between national and international agencies, notably:

  • Developing a clearer picture of transnational crime trends across the Atlantic, including the presence and activities of illicit networks and their illicit financial flows, so that government agencies can develop more effective strategies to address transnational threats and deploy the most effective investigative techniques to disrupt them.
  • Exploring the establishment of a contact group modeled after existing coordination mechanisms (e.g. piracy) to monitor and ensure progress and enhance the coherence of cooperation between stakeholders.
  • Enhancing intelligence and information-sharing arrangements, including common arrangements for analyzing intelligence, and supporting evidence-sharing to assist in carrying out investigations and prosecutions.
  • Examining the establishment of sound mechanisms to trace the flow of criminally derived funds and to prevent illicit networks benefitting from the proceeds of crime.
  • Promoting the implementation and best use of the available international instruments, including the United Nations conventions regarding the control of drugs, corruption (UNCAC), and Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), as well as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) principles on combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • Promoting public awareness of the real costs to governments and their citizens of the insecurity, the loss of revenue, trade and investment, and the risks to health and safety caused by the activities of illicit networks.

7. Many participants emphasized that fighting transnational crime and dismantling illicit networks is not something that any one government can do alone, and that working together closely at the bilateral, sub-regional, regional and global level is essential. In this regard, the May 2011 G8 Political Declaration of the Ministers responsible for the fight against illicit drug trafficking was pointed to as setting out important commitments with regard to curbing the transatlantic trafficking of cocaine, as part of the world drug problem.

8. The co-chairs underlined that the aim of organizing the Trans-Atlantic Symposium was to bring together an informal trans-Atlantic “network of networks”, and invited participants to make this network a reality by taking advantage of the contacts they had made during the Symposium in their daily efforts to combat transnational criminal threats. They also invited the participants to incorporate the best practices highlighted at the Symposium in their future work; and to look for further opportunities to bring the trans-Atlantic network together to follow-up on the outcomes of the Symposium and combat transnational illicit networks.