Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Addresses the 20th Annual International Association of Prosecutors Conference

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Zurich, Switzerland

Thank you, Attorney General [Michael] Lauber, for those kind words – and for your unwavering partnership on a range of issues with profound implications for our nations, and for the world.  I could not be more grateful for your bold leadership, your unyielding determination, and your steadfast devotion to cooperation and collaboration in the pursuit of what is right.

Ladies and gentlemen; distinguished guests; leaders and citizens – thank you all for such a warm welcome.  It is a privilege to join you in Switzerland, and it’s a great pleasure to be in the beautiful city of Zurich this morning.  I’d like to thank the Swiss government – and particularly President [Simonetta] Sommaruga and the Swiss Federal Council – for their hospitality.  I also want to thank President [Gerhard] Jarosch for his leadership of this important organization.  And I’d like to thank all of you here today for your commitment to raising the standards of professional conduct, to improving international cooperation and to promoting the rule of law in your home countries and around the world.  It’s an honor to stand with every one of you as we work together to deepen our collaboration; to tackle the emerging challenges we face; and to reaffirm our longstanding dedication to the values that bind us together: liberty, equality, opportunity and above all, justice.

The work that is done by the men and women in this room – and by our friends and partners in countries around the world – is central to achieving those vital goals.  For the last two decades, the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) has stood as a proud leader in extending the promise of safety, security and the rule of law.  Together, we have advocated for the protection of human rights around the world, standing up and speaking out against exploitation and violence.  We have fought public corruption and organized crime.  In all these efforts, the IAP has helped formulate solutions, share best practices, expand knowledge and promote opportunity.  And today, we stand together once again to discuss how we can support one another, inform one another and advance our united front against corruption and international crime.

It is this spirit of cooperation that allowed both Switzerland and the United States to announce this past May that we are conducting investigations into bribery and corruption in the world of organized football.  In the United States, that investigation resulted in charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies spanning two decades.  It exposed high-ranking officials of FIFA; leaders of regional and other governing bodies under the FIFA umbrella; and sports marketing executives who, according to the indictment, paid millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.  It resulted in arrests here in Switzerland through the assistance of Attorney General Lauber, Swiss authorities and their colleagues in the Federal Office of Justice, and is continuing with an independent Swiss investigation of FIFA.  And it involved important assistance from a range of other colleagues around the world.  It is this kind of close and constructive collaboration that we are here to continue today.

With that action, we made it abundantly clear once again that prosecutors around the world will stand together in order to root out corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice – no matter where they are, no matter how complex their crimes and no matter how powerful they may be.  Our message is clear: no individual is impervious to the law.  No corrupt organization is beyond its reach.  And no criminal act can evade the concerted efforts of dedicated men and women fighting for justice.  This is an issue that concerns us all – because whether in a nation or an organization, whether committed by public officials or private citizens, corruption undermines our values, diminishes confidence in our institutions and shakes the foundations of our global society.

Like many of you, I have seen firsthand how these insidious practices can strike at the core of who we are and who we aspire to be.  Before becoming Attorney General, I prosecuted organized crime and public corruption cases as a United States Attorney in New York.  It is, of course, the ultimate betrayal of public trust when public officials place themselves above the law, abandon their responsibilities to those whom we are all sworn to serve and seek instead to serve their own interests.  I pursued elected leaders and officials accused of exploiting those they were sworn to serve.  I took on international syndicates determined to subvert the rule of law.  And I witnessed how profoundly their betrayal of public trust can diminish our communities and imperil our highest ideals.  As you know, corruption frequently paves the way for follow-on offenses ranging from money laundering to transnational crime – and even terrorism.  It destabilizes nations, causing ripple effects in neighboring regions and raising security concerns around the world.  And with an estimated $1.6 trillion in ill-gotten proceeds from criminal activity – including corruption – crossing international borders every year, it siphons badly-needed resources away from the vulnerable populations that need them most, placing innumerable lives in grave danger and wrenching poverty.

I am proud to say that the United States Department of Justice is deeply committed to working with our prosecutorial partners worldwide to fight corruption.  Since 2009, we have engaged in summits designed to enhance partnership and provide assistance, from the first and second Arab Forums on Asset Recovery in Doha and Marrakech, to the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery in London just last year.  In 2010, we launched the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative under the leadership of my predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder, to take on official corruption and return stolen assets to their rightful owners.  Since that initiative began, our Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section has opened cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal proceeds.  Just last year, we established a dedicated Kleptocracy force within our Federal Bureau of Investigation to vigorously investigate instances of corruption around the world.  And we are working closely with organizations that support international criminal investigations, from the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime.

As we have seen time and again that collaboration is crucial, and it’s why we have worked hard to strengthen the bonds we share with our partners, and to enhance cooperation in all law enforcement matters – from corruption to white collar crime and money laundering; from terrorism to cyberattacks.  To achieve this end, it is essential that we have strong mechanisms for providing mutual legal assistance to each other—and today, I would like to highlight two steps the Department of Justice is taking to strengthen those mechanisms.  First, through our Central Authorities Initiative, in coordination with the U.S. State Department, we are working with other countries around the world to build networks of “Central Authorities” – the bureaus within Justice Ministries or Public Prosecutors Offices that provide the essential day-to-day exchange of evidence and that make extraditions possible.  Second, we have taken steps to greatly expand the size of our own Office of International Affairs and to streamline the process for obtaining evidence from the United States.

Smoothing the way for international cooperation is especially critical given the increasingly central role of electronic evidence in all of our cases – and especially in complex white collar and corruption cases.  Evidence that previously existed in paper form within our countries may now instead be stored electronically in servers in other countries around the world or in the cloud.  And this becomes an even greater issue regarding crimes in cyberspace – one of my top priorities as Attorney General – because those crimes are not limited by traditional borders or geographic lines.  That’s why the Justice Department in the United States is building our capacity to provide legal assistance to other countries in cybercrime cases and cases involving electronic evidence.  We’ve created a cyber unit in our Office of International Affairs to focus exclusively on responding to and executing requests for electronic evidence from foreign authorities.  We’re streamlining the mutual legal assistance process to ensure that we are operating with the efficiency and the resources that our cooperation requires and that all of our citizens deserve.  We’re drawing on our experience to prepare for and prevent future cyberattacks and intrusions, most recently through our new Cybersecurity Unit, staffed by prosecutors with deep expertise in the law, policy and practice of cybercrime prevention.  And we are committed to sharing this expertise with prosecutors worldwide.

Of course, even as we work to improve our efficiency, promote information-sharing and meet our law enforcement objectives, we must also make certain that we are protecting the privacy and civil liberties of our people.  That is a key component of our efforts going forward.  And we are already making significant progress.  In fact, I am pleased to note that, just a few days ago, after four years of negotiation, the United States and the European Union initialed the “Umbrella” Data Privacy and Protection Agreement, which will enhance the ability of law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies on both sides of the Atlantic to combat crime and terrorism while protecting personal privacy.  This is not only an important step forward – it is also a symbol of the work we can do when we join our partners and colleagues in the service of our common objectives.

As you continue this conference over the next few days, I encourage you to take this opportunity to build the bridges and forge the connections that will propel our shared work forward.  There is no doubt that we face complex issues and difficult challenges, and that our goals will be difficult to achieve.  But if we can keep learning from one another in forums like this one; if we can keep collaborating with one another in the work we do moving forward; and if we can keep the faith – and hold fast to our unshakeable belief in the cause of justice and the rule of law – then I have no doubt that we can help expand safety and security for all of our citizens.

Thank you, once again, for the opportunity to address you today.

Source: Office of Attorney General.

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