Press Release

 Email this articleGovernment Homepage

DPP's speech


Following is the speech given by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Grenville Cross, SC, on Enforcement and Prosecution Strategies in the 21st Century - Combatting Multi-Jurisdictional Crime at the Transnational Organised Crime Conference 2002 today (March 18):

'If crime crosses all borders, so must law enforcement. If the rule of law is undermined not only in one country, but in many, then those who defend it cannot limit themselves to purely national means. If the enemies of progress and human rights seek to exploit the openness and opportunities of globalization for their purposes, then we must exploit those very same factors to defend human rights, and defeat the forces of crime, corruption, and trafficking in human beings.'

- Kofi Annan

The Conference that starts today is an ambitious one. Its work is vital, and its objectives are clear. All of those involved in the prosecution of crime and the enforcement of the law are conscious of the problems that are posed throughout the world by organised crime. Challenges exist to the rule of law, to the welfare of people, to the infrastructure of society, and to the civilised conduct of international transactions. All too often we see that the responses to crime are uncoordinated and disjointed, and this plays directly into the hands of those who would wish to benefit from the difficulties which confront the task of effective policing at the global level. The world is awash with organised criminal networks, and while we can all acknowledge the importance of clamping down on such groups we must also recognise that the mechanisms we have in place for achieving this are often far from perfect.

Patterns of crime are constantly evolving, and they are doing so at a pace far greater than previously. It is apparent that international criminals these days are increasingly banding together in multi-crime enterprises, some loosely organised, others highly structured. They capitalise upon the growth in communication and transport to expand their operations and to form alliances. These people disregard jurisdictional and geographic borders, except when they seek safety from prosecution behind them. There is an urgent need for an effective and coherent international response to the menace of transnational organised crime. Of course, we have agreements in place, but the machinery, all too often, moves at a snail's pace. That is precisely why effective modes of mutual legal assistance, asset tracing and cooperation amongst law enforcement personnel are all so vital. Responsibility in this area does not rest simply with prosecutors and police.

All of those who are stakeholders in civilised society, be they lawmakers, professionals, bankers, businessmen or concerned citizens, must also pull together to ensure that we achieve systems of law which can deal in a serious way with globalisation and its consequences, particularly in relation to mutual legal assistance. There can be no opt outs. Of course, there will always be excuses for doing as little as possible, for adopting the course of least resistance to organised crime. But that, I would say, is a recipe for disaster. If, as prosecutors and law enforcers, we are not prepared to uphold our laws and to defend our societies, we will be guilty of an abdication of responsibility. I believe we are all fixed with the common duty to counter developments which undermine the values and the standards which we, as custodians of the law, are entrusted to sustain and to cherish. That is the reason why this Conference must seek to roll back the obstacles which stand in the way of effective patterns of cooperation at the international level.

The international criminal can move from one place to another with relative ease. That is as true of the drug trafficker, the money launderer, the cyber crook and the people smuggler as it is of the terrorist. Yet police often require agreements to travel from one city to another. Law enforcers cannot freely cross borders. Witnesses in one place cannot be compelled to testify in another. Information exchange agencies are circumscribed in the intelligence they are willing to share. Rules of evidence often do not facilitate the admission at trial of relevant material from other places. The need must therefore be for those who operate our legal systems to examine how they can improve and modernise them in the interests of better and more effective systems of criminal justice. Let that thought inform the deliberations of this Conference.

Much has been said and written about transnational organised crime, and rightly so. Much, fortunately, has also been achieved. The Signing Conference in Palermo, Italy, of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime ('the Palermo Convention') was, without doubt, a watershed in the history of international law enforcement. The Palermo Convention, with its stated purpose 'to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organised crime more effectively', has sent out a clarion call which has been heard throughout the world, and for good reason. Organised crime, in its myriad forms, has acquired dimensions which greatly exceed the levels which governments or peoples are prepared to tolerate. The Palermo Convention, which China signed at the outset, is, undoubtedly, a remarkable document, and it includes within itself some of the best crime-fighting practices from around the world. It incorporates those practices into an instrument which is designed to promote effective cooperation among countries in investigating and prosecuting criminals who operate at the transnational level. But the Palermo Convention is not an end in itself.

Although the Palermo Convention is proof positive that the will and the momentum are there for concerted action against organised criminal groups, the machinery it contains must now be put into operation and made to work effectively and expeditiously. That requires the pooling of ideas and experiences amongst those concerned with better techniques of international law enforcement. That is why I consider that it is greatly to the credit of the Hong Kong Police, at a time when the Palermo Convention is still at the signatory stage, that they should have had the vision and the initiative to organise a transnational organised crime conference of this type with a defined agenda designed to crystallise thought and action in important areas of common interest to law enforcers and to map the course of future cooperation.

It is apparent that the parameters of this Conference have been defined with precision, and through the exchange of ideas and experiences it must with zeal pursue the harmonisation of thinking as to the combat of transnational organised crime, with a proper emphasis upon some of its most insidious manifestations, computer crime, money laundering, narcotics and triad societies. There will, I am sure, be much talk of strong laws, firm policing, determined responses, draconian solutions and deterrent penalties. Do not shy away from these, for the challenge the Conference is required to confront will not be resolved by pious pronouncements, by half-measures or by tinkering. Rigorous, focused and concerted thinking is what is called for if this Conference is to achieve its objectives. But let me sound a cautionary note. Keep in sight at all times the importance of respecting the rights of suspects, of protecting the position of those who are charged, and of safeguarding the interests of all of those who find themselves caught up in the legal process but who might, in fact, be innocent of crime. Decisive thinking : yes. Tough responses : yes. Vigorous cooperation : yes. But let none of these be pursued at the expense of the integrity of the criminal justice systems by which we all set such store. That said, may I quote the words of the distinguished jurist, Lord Steyn, who, in a recent case construing Great Britain's Human Rights Act, remarked :

'The fundamental rights of individuals are of supreme importance but those rights are not unlimited : we live in a community of individuals who also have rights.'

Let it not be forgotten as well that the notion of rule of law is not just about security and the prevention of crime. Its essential attributes include due process, restraint by those in authority and the avoidance of arbitrariness. The task of ensuring a measured and sensible compatibility between what are, in some ways, the competing interests of civilised society is not an easy one, but it is one which this Conference must realistically and resolutely confront. The rule of law must be protected at all times and, as those of you who are familiar with this region can confirm, we in Hong Kong set the greatest store by the rule of law, and let me say a little more about that.

It has been said that if Hong Kong has a defining ideology it is the rule of law. The decisions and actions of those in authority are subject to the law, and an independent judiciary regulates the conduct of investigative bodies and resolves disputes between parties and determines issues of guilt or innocence. An independent prosecuting authority controls criminal prosecutions, free from any interference. All of these are central to Hong Kong's view of itself as Asia's World City, and we are determined, in our own interest, that none of these should change.

Since 1997, Hong Kong has maintained its identity and lifestyle, and we want the world to know that this is a safe city in which to live and to do business. Hong Kong is a place where corruption is not tolerated, where the civil service is clean, where investment is secure, where the financial system is properly regulated, and where insider dealing is not countenanced. Hong Kong is also a law-abiding city, and that it is a safe city in law and order terms is something for which we have our hosts to thank. But at the same time we in Hong Kong are keenly aware that we are not insulated from global developments in crime, and that is precisely why our Police Force is playing so full and dynamic a role in the promotion of international and regional cooperation in the combat of transnational organised crime. The objectives which the international community set for itself at Palermo are ones to which those of us who are charged with upholding the law in Hong Kong are committed. One of the principal objects of the International Association of Prosecutors, which my Office joined on 1 January 2001, is international cooperation in combating transnational crimes.

Although it would not be right to regard organised crime as a new phenomenon, what is new is the extent to which organised criminal networks, including triad societies, have diversified their activities and spread their tentacles across the globe. These are people who can move with ease from one jurisdiction to another, and who often operate in the shadows and deploy the latest techniques not just to perpetrate their crimes but also to cover their tracks. These people move sums of money through international financial systems in aggregate amounts which are so large that they sometimes dwarf the economies of many nations. These days the organised criminals are not invariably recognisable as such, for they neither wear black masks nor display pirate flags. Instead, they pursue the same types of joint venture and forge the same sorts of strategic alliance as do legitimate global businesses. When, as so often happens, the line of demarcation between that which is lawful and that which is not becomes blurred, the importance of law enforcers becoming more innovative, more vigilant, more responsive, and more versatile is placed in the sharpest focus. Indeed, the scale and sophistication of organised transnational crime is now such that it is in a position to undermine the authority of states both domestically and in terms of their overseas policy interests. The problem becomes all the greater when those committing the criminality are within, rather than without the system.

Corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, people smuggling and other crimes are generating so much profit these days that the figures are mind boggling. It has, for example, been estimated by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention that the total funds stolen by Nigeria's leaders from 1986 to 1999 amounted to one hundred six billion US dollars. That is equivalent to the gross domestic product of Nigeria for a period of two and a half years. Money laundering worldwide, according to the estimate of a former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, is in the region of two to five percent of the world's gross domestic product. Trafficking in human beings is the fastest growing form of international crime, and migrant smuggling worldwide involves four million people and seven billion US dollars annually. There are reports that drug traffickers are switching to people trafficking in order to get greater profit with less risk. This is not the smuggling of migrants, a recognised type of organised crime, but human slavery where victims lose their freedom. The John Hopkins University Protection Project has estimated that two million children worldwide, half in Asia, are forced into prostitution each year. So alarm bells are ringing everywhere. These must be heeded. It is only if the scale of transnational organised crime is fully appreciated that it can properly be confronted.

At a Conference of this nature, held at this time, it is necessary to say something about terrorism. President Clinton once spoke of 'the growing nexus between terrorists, narcotics traffickers, and other international criminals that has been fostered by developments in international communications, travel and information sharing, and the end of the Cold War'. But although terrorism is very much on our minds these days, it is not necessarily the same thing as organised crime. Terrorists and organised criminals of course need access to adequate funds to finance their activities. Terrorists, like organised criminals, make use, for example, of credit card fraud and cheque fraud. That is why vigorous identification checks must be conducted on potential customers by credit card companies. But while organised criminal networks operate mainly to make money, the aim of terrorists is to kill and to destroy, and for that they need money in the first place. Guns and explosives come at a price, as do training and transport. All such activities require to be clamped down upon and the mechanisms for achieving that need to be refined and improved. Existing mechanisms can be pedestrian and ineffective. Recent events in the United States of America have prompted a tightening up of money laundering regulation worldwide, and have focused attention on the need to close the loopholes. In UN Resolution 1373 we can see a comprehensive initiative, which has at its centre the suppression of terrorist financing, and the requirement of states to report on the steps taken in respect of it will undoubtedly facilitate its implementation. As the current president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Hong Kong is acting decisively to coordinate global efforts to combat both terrorist financing and money laundering.

In Hong Kong, it is proposed that government should be empowered to freeze terrorist funds or assets, subject to court oversight against abuse of administrative powers by those affected. Related to that is the requirement for financial institutions and businesses subject to anti-money laundering obligations to report transactions of funds that might be involved with terrorism. But tracing the funds of terrorists differs from the search for money generated by the activities of organised crime. After all, Osama bin Laden's companies are said to have made profits from legitimate business, and much of that was processed through established banking networks. When one recalls that bin Laden made use of alternative remittance systems, such as hawala banking, as well as of Islamic banking, the position becomes all the more problematic. Such systems are widespread and pre-date Western banking systems. They also require scrutiny and regulation if they are not to be abused.

In Hong Kong we have taken action on this front and legislation which regulates remittance agents and money changers that came into effect in June 2000 requires non-bank businesses, such as hawala brokers, to adopt sound procedures including customer identification and maintaining records of transactions. But since such people as bin Laden make use of 'reverse money laundering' techniques, by using money obtained legally for illegal acts, we must remember that tried and tested anti-money laundering methods might not always succeed in detecting what is happening. Financial institutions must therefore exercise the greatest of vigilance at all times in their handling of customers whose conduct excites suspicion. Governments alone cannot deal with this problem, and the engagement of the private sector is vital.

In the quest for practical results in the combat of terrorism, concerted action is vital in three critical areas :

* the regulation of border controls;

* the establishing of more effective networks and mechanisms to track and intercept the financing of terrorists;

the sharing of intelligence and experience.

Much of the value of the Palermo Convention lies in the framework it provides for the confiscation and seizure of the proceeds of organised crime and of property or equipment used in criminal acts. It also provides for international cooperation in the recovery of assets obtained through corruption in one place and secreted elsewhere. The proceeds of crime provide the means by which new stages of organised crime can be funded. The corruption of public officials can impede the control of money laundering, and illicit assets can so easily be used to facilitate this. For that reason alone we must view the confiscation of the proceeds of crime as an integral part of the function of today's prosecutors and investigators. To the extent that existing laws do not sufficiently facilitate this, we must be prepared to make the case for change, and to explain how the existing channels of cooperation between law enforcers and prosecutors can be strengthened.

It is clear that efforts by states acting alone to strike at the economic power of organised criminal networks will not succeed if other places do not take complementary action. Without interlocking national controls, we can all too often see that non participating countries offer criminals safe havens for laundering their funds. Even in places which have legislation in place, orders for recovery of assets are made in only a fraction of the cases where there are convictions. Amounts recovered invariably fall short of those ordered by the courts. A global response must surely require not just that countries prepare effective legislation but also that they establish administrative regulations and guidelines for the national authorities that oversee financial markets. Effective penalty provisions to deal with breaches of laws and regulations are also imperative.

Since money laundering techniques have become so sophisticated, streamlined evidentiary rules need at least to be examined. It is all too often the case in 'conviction based' jurisdictions that investigators find accounts containing money which represents the proceeds of crime committed elsewhere, but the perpetrators of the crime and the account owners never visit the jurisdiction. The accounts are opened by corporate or secretarial companies operating locally, while the named account holder is a company incorporated offshore. Unless sufficient evidence is found to charge and prosecute those involved, they are left to enjoy the proceeds of crime. This cannot surely be regarded as a satisfactory or a tolerable state of affairs.

There is a new and positive trend developing towards different standards of evidence for the conviction of persons, on the one hand, and for the confiscation of property associated with criminal activity, on the other. Jurisdictions which stipulate conviction as the precondition of confiscation are increasingly realising that their laws are not resulting in the confiscation of funds of illicit origin to any great extent. If in order to combat money laundering effectively we need to move in the direction of civil or 'in rem' forfeiture, as an alternative to criminal confiscation, as has been done with some success in the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland, let us not be afraid to take the initiative. It is only if the profit is taken out of organised crime that people will be deterred from involving themselves in it.

The most substantial Article in the Palermo Convention is that which deals with mutual legal assistance. It contains practical guidance as to how states can cooperate with one another. Techniques which have proved valuable in bilateral cooperation arrangements will, upon ratification, be elevated to global status. The electronic transmission of requests from one country to another, for example, is allowable under the language of the Convention. Such streamlining is essential as traditional modes of legal assistance have not always proved salutary. The time it takes to make formal requests that comply with the requested states' procedures can often provide criminals with all the time they need to transfer themselves and their assets elsewhere. Speed is central to the combat of money laundering, and states must be able to seize assets before they leave the jurisdiction. Systems have to be put in place which enable money to be frozen immediately, pending the making of a request, or, in a domestic case, by the time a restraint order can be sought. Great Britain has recently proposed giving civil investigators the power to examine bank accounts and to freeze the assets of suspects as soon as they begin examining their affairs, rather than at the stage when charges are imminent. This, surely, is an area where innovative thinking is imperative. Fraud is another such area.

It is estimated that one in ten Internet transactions in the Asia-Pacific Region now involve some kind of fraud1. Consumers, government agencies and businesses are increasingly being targeted by organised criminal groups which use the Internet to launder the proceeds of illegal activities internationally. Fraud prevention in this day and age requires a response which combines traditional policing with the use of more sophisticated technology, such as the authentication of computer users. Confidentiality, important though it is in a civilised society, cannot determine the pace and development of the criminal law, and must not be used to thwart legitimate law enforcement.

Nor must bank secrecy be used as a pretext for blocking investigations into either terrorist financing or illicitly obtained assets. Some jurisdictions have already cut back on bank secrecy by prohibiting operations designed to stop the flow of money being traced, such as anonymous bank accounts or procedures to eliminate the paper trail. As the 'know your client' rule is increasingly espoused, the need for financial institutions to ascertain the identities of customers must become the norm in the conduct of the banking business. Here again the language of the Palermo Convention is blunt, for it provides that 'States shall not decline to act on the ground of bank secrecy'

I consider as well that off-shore financial operations also require greater vigilance by banks and stronger regulation by government. It is thought bin Laden obtained funds through the offshore banking system. Money launderers all too often operate through shell corporations and offshore banks in places with lax financial laws. The Financial Action Task Force has had some solid success of late in persuading offshore financial centres to reform and to strengthen money laundering regulation. However, recent cases of illicit assets, such as that involving General Abacha, have shown that difficulties in this area can arise in established financial centres as well as in offshore jurisdictions. In the course of its investigation of accounts linked to General Abacha, Great Britain's Financial Services Authority (FSA) investigated 23 banks because of possible links to Abacha accounts. Fifteen of those banks were considered by the FSA to have significant money laundering control weaknesses. US$1.3 billion had been channelled through accounts at these banks between 1996 and 2000. Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the FSA, indicated recently that political leaders in the G7 economies are most concerned by what they see as dangerous gaps in the world's defences against financial crime and financial instability. He added that the future of off-shore financial centres would be bleak if they failed to demonstrate that they met international standards of best practice. The wider lesson must therefore be that all financial institutions, no matter where they are situated, must ensure that those who avail themselves of their services are adequately regulated and subjected to proper scrutiny.

The parameters of this Conference will encompass transnational cyber crime, and that is an area requiring of closer and speedier cooperation amongst those concerned with the combat of crime. The Palermo Convention also addresses the challenge of cyber crime. It requires States Parties to criminalise serious crimes and crimes which are transnational in nature, involving organised crime groups. Under the Convention an offence is classified as 'transnational' if it is :

(1) committed in more than one state;

(2) committed in a single state, but planned, prepared, directed or controlled in another state;

(3) committed in one state but involves an organised crime group whose activities cross national boundaries; or

(4) committed in a single state but has 'substantial effects' in another state.

Nor is that the end of the matter. The Convention goes on to define 'serious crime' as conduct capable of attracting at least 4 years' imprisonment on conviction. An 'organised criminal group' is defined as 'a structured group of three or more persons ... acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes ... in order to obtain ... a financial or other material benefit.'

As many of the most common types of criminality, including cyber crime, qualify as serious and transnational within the terms of the Palermo Convention, since, apart from their gravity, they invariably affect more than one jurisdiction, and involve at least several persons acting in concert in pursuit of financial gain, I have no hesitation in inviting the Conference to treat the Convention as an essential point of reference for taking forward its deliberations. The challenge is how to achieve better cooperation, and to bridge the gap that stands in the way of that objective.

The Palermo Convention encourages States Parties to conclude appropriate bilateral or multilateral agreements providing for cooperation in the use of 'special investigative techniques', such as electronic surveillance. Mutual legal assistance arrangements necessarily depend for their efficacy upon the willingness of jurisdictions to accept the notion of mutual recognition of decisions of foreign courts. The execution of requests for assistance involving communications interception would be greatly expedited if interception warrants issued in one jurisdiction were afforded recognition in another jurisdiction and could thereby be enforced immediately in the other jurisdiction. Given that computer records which disclose the crime can be speedily erased, mutual assistance mechanisms which facilitate duly authorised requests between jurisdictions for interception warrants are essential. Those who police the Internet must equally assist one another.

Here in Hong Kong an example of the sort of cooperation that is necessary is provided by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). The SFC uses its Internet Surveillance Programme - which monitors web sites, chat rooms and bulletin boards - to detect activities which target Hong Kong and which might infringe our laws. The SFC, as a regulatory body, concentrates upon the fraudulent solicitation of investors, market manipulation, the circulation of false or misleading information and insider trading. But when the SFC locates suspicious sites in other jurisdictions it passes on the information to law enforcers elsewhere. All such cooperation facilitates the policing of cyber space and is to be encouraged for that reason.

As so much crime is now committed by technological means, it is imperative for countries to develop coordinated common strategies to deal with the law enforcement implications of the use of cryptography. Although jurisdictions are not yet moving in tandem, that is not to say there has not been much significant movement in recent times. In this region it is encouraging that the Association of South East Asian Nations has established an e-Asian task force designed to harmonise and standardise cyber laws. In Hong Kong, it is proposed that law enforcers be allowed access to the keys they need to decrypt messages related to their investigations, but subject to judicial oversight. In Great Britain, legislation now gives law enforcers the power to require the handing over of the keys that are used to encrypt communications. In Holland, the focus has been upon statutory powers to monitor computers to gain access to text prior to the encryption or else following decryption. Singapore and Malaysia have legislation in place to enable law enforcers to acquire encryption keys. In the United States of America, legislation is now in place which enables the mandatory recovery of keys for decrypting messages through a court order. The Australian telecommunications interception legislation adopts a technology-neutral approach that facilitates the interception of e-mail communications as well as telephone and fax communications.

It is clear that much is being done, and that is encouraging for it means that models exist for those who have yet to act. I think as well that this Conference will wish to consider the extent to which it is desirable or legitimate for legislation to be enacted which confers greater powers on police and others to monitor a suspect's computer on a regular basis, whether by way of the insertion of a data monitoring device or by means of monitoring from an external site. But may I at the same time sound a note of caution. As we react internationally and domestically to the threat of crime we must preserve and protect human rights. There is a connection between the enforcement of the legitimate rights and freedoms of all persons and the public acceptance of our role and confidence in our criminal justice systems. Unless we have the confidence of the people in whose name we carry out our public functions, we may find that we will lose our battle against crime.

I consider that access by law enforcers to data must be properly authorised for specific purposes, and always subject to independent oversight. Before an interception warrant is to be issued in a criminal case, it is only right to require the police to show that it is necessary for the detection or prevention of serious crime. The conduct authorised by the warrant must also be proportionate to what is sought to be achieved. Any definition of the information the police can have access to without a warrant must be tight to be acceptable. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the target of law enforcement is the serious criminal, not the innocent user of technology. It is hard to conceive of circumstances in which it will be appropriate to require companies routinely to surrender private keys to their entire networks. Where legitimate businesses are concerned, it might well be that the disclosure of material in intelligible form - rather than a key - will normally be sufficient. I consider that legislation in this area should place due restrictions upon the making of gratuitous requests for keys.

As patterns of cooperation are examined, I would ask the Conference to pause for a moment and consider how things presently stand. International arrangements exist in relation to the location of persons, the service of documents, search and seizure, the giving of testimony, and the tracing of proceeds of crime. It is not necessary to start from a blank sheet of paper. But much more needs to be done to develop schemes for mutual legal assistance. In that endeavour we in Hong Kong are determined to play a full part. Our Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance is an instrument which enables us to assist those in other places who are involved in the investigation and prosecution of crime. Since 1997, the international legal cooperation which Hong Kong has provided has centred on three areas :

* mutual legal assistance in criminal matters

* surrender of fugitive offenders (extradition)

* transfer of sentenced persons

Through our mutual legal assistance arrangements, our scope to assist other jurisdictions is wide. Evidence can, for example, be taken in Hong Kong in a criminal case which arises elsewhere but which is still at the investigative stage. Orders issued elsewhere for the confiscation of the proceeds of serious crime can be enforced in Hong Kong. Search warrants can be used in Hong Kong to obtain evidence for production elsewhere. To take advantage of such procedures, the state seeking assistance is required either to enter into a mutual legal assistance agreement with Hong Kong, or to provide an undertaking of reciprocity to assist Hong Kong in comparable circumstances. As at January 2002, Hong Kong had signed or initialled 21 mutual legal assistance agreements with other jurisdictions and that process is ongoing. The numbers of requests made to, and received by the police for assistance in money laundering and confiscation matters with other jurisdictions in the past five years are as follows :

Australia Canada USA Others Total

To From To From To From To From

1997 28 30 3 5 6 6 14 5 97

1998 38 81 7 11 38 62 44 17 298

1999 25 16 10 7 41 3 34 14 150

2000 26 6 27 19 27 7 14 8 134

2001 33 10 29 15 51 5 46 18 207

I give these figures for this reason. They demonstrate our commitment in Hong Kong to working with others to locate and to strike at the profits of crime. In Hong Kong we are determined not just to protect the integrity of our own financial system, but to assist others in their efforts to safeguard theirs. And as the President until June of the Financial Action Task Force, Hong Kong is playing the fullest of parts in the efforts to counter money laundering and to combat terrorist financing. Hong Kong is at the forefront of the fight against international criminal activity, and it is our firm intention to remain there.

Although international cooperation in the criminal sphere is not new, it has experienced an astonishing development in recent times. This has had important and positive consequences. Multilateral treaties have dictated major changes in domestic legislation, just as they have set the pace for measures at the bilateral level. As this Conference decides how best to bridge the gap, I would suggest that strategies to promote closer international cooperation in the combat of transnational crime might properly include :

(1) agreement as to what conduct should be regarded as criminal, and what should be the ingredients of the offence;

(2) recognition that transnational problems cannot be resolved at the local level;

(3) pro-active approaches to mutual legal assistance;

(4) the exchange of intelligence as to the nature and extent of crime, and of latest trends in crime;

(5) the effective coordination of law enforcement initiatives;

(6) respect for the circumstances of particular jurisdictions;

(7) the identification of those areas in which concerted action at the international level will be most effective, and of those areas which can most effectively be addressed at the local level, and of those areas where international action and local action need to proceed in tandem;

(8) the assessment of the social, financial and other costs of crime and crime control to the local, national and international community, and to the development process;

(9) the sharing of anti-crime models by those jurisdictions which have them with those which have not;

(10) the exchange of knowledge and expertise, legislative and regulatory documents and scientific and technical information;

(11) the pooling of training programmes;

(12) the development of laws which have extra-territorial reach;

(13) the allocation of necessary resources at the national level and intensive technical development;

(14) the elimination of safe havens;

(15) the effective protection of witnesses;

(16) the constructive involvement of the private sector;

(17) the use of modern techniques such as the video link to facilitate the reception in one jurisdiction of evidence from another;

(18) the development of local laws which facilitate the giving of testimony by victims of crime, and which remove unnecessary obstacles to the ascertainment of the truth;

(19) the protection of human rights in the administration of justice and in the prevention and control of crime;

(20) the creative and aggressive use of all legal means available to bring offenders to account;

(21) the ability to think globally, to talk globally and to act globally.

Few will dispute that transnational organised crime is a defining issue of the 21st century. Unless checked, this is a phenomenon which has the capacity to affect almost any area of international activity. The financial power of international organised crime groups has never been stronger. This can corrupt and corrode our societies at all levels. Practical cooperation and coordination amongst law enforcers from different places is often difficult, but we must persevere if we are to secure a better and a safer world. Those concerned with law enforcement must use their strength, resources and ingenuity to ensure that the degree of international cooperation in the fight against crime is intensified and that, at all levels, the advance of organised crime is retarded and reversed. The mission of this Conference is therefore to decide how best to bridge the gap that exists in the area of international policing. That is a vital mission, for it has rightly been said that 'any gap becomes not just a weak link but a genuine hole, quickly attracting organised crime groups looking for safe havens'.

End/Monday, March 18, 2002


Email this article