It is a pleasure to welcome you to Sarajevo once again. Thank you for being here. Yesterday was the casual reception, where I hope you established new relationships with regional, U.S., and international counterparts, or perhaps renewed old ones. Today, we get down to business.
We are here today to find ways to support one another’s efforts to fight organized crime. As the threat posed by transnational organized crime networks to the countries of the Western Balkans has grown, cooperation and a shared unity of purpose have become even more essential. The citizens of your countries are trying to improve their lives, and we hope each country will ultimately integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions. One of the biggest obstacles to that goal is organized crime, whether it be nefarious enterprises exerting their influence at the state level to undermine the rule of law, or the rank-and-file members of criminal networks committing crimes that harm honest citizens.
I am aware of the challenges that those of you in law enforcement face. It becomes more difficult by the day to counter organized crime, as criminal networks continuously adapt their tools, tactics, and techniques. This conference is an opportunity to build the bridges we need to work together to fight these criminals. By building a unified front and drawing on the collective knowledge in this room of how criminal organizations work across borders in the Western Balkans, we can fight transnational organized crime much more aggressively and effectively.
I see three goals for this conference: first, that we find ways to improve and enhance law enforcement cooperation and intelligence sharing so that you can prevent, detect, and dismantle criminal networks – and while we are at it, that we also find ways to improve cooperation among law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary. Second, we hope you will improve individual and organizational capacities, especially in areas such as asset forfeiture, financial analysis, investigative techniques, and legal procedures.
Third and finally, I hope all of you can develop unified strategies, determine best practices, and develop new ways to use digital evidence. As you know, the United States and our international partners have collected billions of digital messages from encrypted applications that could ultimately put a lot of people in jail.
One example is the FBI-led Trojan Shield Operation, which involved the DEA, the Australian Federal Police, Europol, and law enforcement partners in more than a dozen other countries. Through your partnerships with the FBI, as well as the Europol-led Sky ECC operation, you have access to an historic amount of potential evidence which can be used to roll back the influence of transnational organized crime networks. Some countries represented here have used Trojan Shield and Sky ECC evidence to map out these criminal networks and make significant arrests, which, if continued, can have a transformational effect on the fight against organized crime, and I want to personally thank you for joining forces with us.
I urge those of you who have not yet used Trojan Shield or Sky ECC to find ways to analyze these enormous digital data sets. Our U.S. law enforcement colleagues stand ready to collaborate with you on this vital task.
Some ask whether it is worth it to spend the time and resources to fight transnational organized crime. The answer is yes. The crimes and the damage to institutions that criminal networks carry out impact law-abiding citizens and their families. The public may not always recognize the source, but they feel the effects. When criminal networks are involved, we all pay more for a liter of gas; for food, health care, and medicines; and even raw materials imported from overseas. Moreover, it is much harder to open and run a business when under pressure from these organized criminal groups or the corrupt officials who serve them.
We are concerned with far more than the financial impact, however.
These organized criminal groups are involved in some of the most heinous crimes, such as trafficking in persons, murder, narcotics and arms trafficking, migrant smuggling, and money laundering, to name just a few. These groups infiltrate businesses. They may provide logistical support to hostile foreign powers. They may try to manipulate those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, these so-called “iron triangles” of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders pose a significant national security threat to the United States and to your countries.
Unsurprisingly, these networks seek out the path of least resistance and search out places where the rule of law is weak, and where the justice system is already politically captured. I wake up every morning here in Sarajevo thinking about this, and I often talk to citizens and elected leaders about why corruption is such a destabilizing force and how it is undermining the future of this country. We know that corruption is one of the top concerns of the citizens of BiH; it is high time that elected leaders took decisive action against it.
Toward this end, the United States is working intensively with local partners to build the capacity of law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary to fight corruption, to prosecute corrupt actors, and to punish corrupt offenders. These are absolutely essential actions if the state is to defeat endemic corruption and the rot it brings.
As criminal networks operate in different countries and exploit flexible political and judicial systems, deeper and more effective cross-border cooperation among law enforcement is needed to shed light on these networks and to impose consequences on them. One of these consequences needs to be the confiscation of the proceeds of organized crime and corruption.
So, what can we do about this? The United States and our international partners are using intelligence and evidence to expand upon what we already know from communications and financial records, to identify key players and their assets. We are sharing this information with our partners around the world in countless ways.
That is one of the main reasons we are here today, and why your presence here to join forces in fighting transnational organized crime is essential.
In the United States, we talk a lot about good guys and bad guys. When law enforcement has the freedom to operate independently and for the benefit of the citizens of your country, you are the good guys. Make no mistake about that. Now, I urge you: Go get the bad guys!