April 24, 2008 in Nation/World

Attorney general warns of new breed of mobsters

Richard B. Schmitt Los Angeles Times
The Spokesman-Review photo

(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Michael Mukasey offered a stark assessment Wednesday of a rising threat from international organized crime, saying that a new breed of mobsters was infiltrating strategic industries, providing logistical support to terrorists and becoming capable of “creating havoc in our economic infrastructure.”

Launching one of his first new law-enforcement initiatives since becoming attorney general last fall, Mukasey said he recently revived a multi-agency group first established in the Johnson administration with the goal of identifying the most urgent organized crime threats around the world and developing strategies for combating them. The Organized Crime Council, composed of senior officials from nine federal law-enforcement agencies, had not met since the early 1990s when it went dormant in the wake of a series of high-profile victories against U.S. organized crime.

“The challenge we face with the new breed of organized criminals is quite different from the one we faced a generation or two ago,” Mukasey said, addressing the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington. “They are more sophisticated, they are richer, they have greater influence over government and political institutions worldwide, and they are savvier about using the latest technology, first to perpetrate and then cover up their crimes.

“This new group of organized criminals are far more involved in our everyday lives than many people appreciate,” he said. “They touch all sectors of our economy, dealing in everything from cigarettes to oil; clothing to pharmaceuticals.”

Mukasey said international organized crime groups control “significant positions” in global energy and strategic materials and are expanding holdings in the U.S. materials sector.

A strategic plan on fighting organized crime released by the department also said such groups manipulate securities exchanges and launder billions of dollars through legitimate financial institutions. “They are expanding their holdings in these sectors, which corrupts the normal functioning of markets and may have a destabilizing effect on U.S. geopolitical interests,” he said.

Prosecutors’ attention to organized crime, like other subjects of traditional law enforcement, has been diverted since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as the department has shifted resources to thwarting terrorists. While many experts believe the opportunities for corruption are so vast that the problem will never be solved, the speech appeared to be an effort by Mukasey to signal U.S. determination.

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