Transnational crime syndicates are becoming stronger by exploiting technology, forging links with one another and taking advantage of insufficient coordination among the world's police forces, officials at an Interpol conference said Monday.
Delegates warned that law enforcement agencies must urgently boost the sharing of intelligence to fight criminals, who are increasingly in cahoots with terrorist networks including al-Qaida.
"It is fair to say that criminals are ahead of governments in exploiting the most advanced tools of globalization," such as international travel, banking and trade, U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said.
"Criminals are at the most advanced stage of globalization," Ogden told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the conference organized by the United Nations and Interpol. "There is no question that we are behind, and the power of these international criminals has grown."
By one estimate, organized crime today comprises up to 15 percent of the global gross domestic product, Ogden said.
The Lyon, France-based Interpol was created in 1923 and is the world's largest international police organization with 187 member countries. It facilitates cross-border police cooperation and focuses on terrorism, organized crime and the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans.
But it appears Interpol is behind in the fight against crime, thanks to insufficient cooperation among countries. Part of the problem is corruption of police departments in many countries. Because of their shaky reputations, other countries are reluctant to share information with them.
"In order to share information you have to have confidence that it won't be misused," Ogden said.
Also, various law enforcement agencies _ even within the same country _ suffer from rivalries, resulting in information not being disseminated.
Examples of transnational crimes abound. Ogden cited an emblematic case disclosed last year _ a racketeering enterprise in Romania that had joined forces with criminals around the world, including street gangs in Los Angeles, to use the Internet to defraud thousands of people and hundreds of financial institutions.
Those charged in the case operated from locations in the Canada, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania and United States, and were citizens or permanent residents of Cambodia, Mexico, Pakistan, Romania, the United States and Vietnam.
Earlier Monday, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik drew the attention of the growing synergy among terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and cybercrime.
Pakistan, a front-line state in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists, has experienced all the crimes firsthand, said Malik, warning that they can quickly spread beyond its borders if not tackled jointly by the international community.
"Terrorists have no boundaries, no religion," he said. "This is the time we have to sit together and put our heads together. The cooperation needs to be even more effective."
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who opened the four-day conference, said that while globalization may have bought untold benefits to countries, it has also made crime global.
"When good gains a foot, evil adds a yard. As you upgrade your knowledge, skills and equipment, you can be sure that criminals are doing the same," he said.
Also Monday, Interpol and the U.N. agreed to increase the role of the police in peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. An action plan to fulfill this aim would be drafted in the next 12 years, a statement said.
If U.N. peacekeepers in post-war zones are asked to perform police-like functions and to combat transnational crime, then more peacekeepers should come from the ranks of police, Interpol Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble said.
Interpol's huge databases including names of criminals, fingerprints, DNA profiles, stolen passports, and tolen vehicles make the organization "an essential partner for police peacekeepers," he said.
Associated Press writer Alex Kennedy contributed to this report.
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