Ministerial and Other Meetings
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Terrorism: Ministerial and Other Meetings

G8 Justice and Interior Ministers' Virtual Meeting
on Organized Crime and Terrorist Funding
Backgrounder

December 15, 1998

Justice encountered the Twenty-first Century today as the G8 Ministers responsible for law enforcement "met" today in nine different locations world-wide to discuss their efforts to combat transnational organised crime and terrorist funding. Utilising video conferencing, the Ministers, chaired by Home Secretary Jack Straw, were able to spend nearly three hours discussing issues without leaving home.

This was the first time that a virtual meeting had been accomplished at Ministerial level among the Eight, and the first time the G8 Justice and Interior Ministers have met since last December in Washington. EU Commissioner Anita Gradin also took part. The Ministers agreed that video conferencing had proved an effective and economical way of keeping in touch, particularly when events demand a quick response.

ORGANISED CRIME

At their meeting in Washington a year ago the Ministers had tasked the G8 experts on organised crime (the Lyon Group) with two projects: enhancing abilities to investigate and prosecute high-tech crimes, and strengthening extradition and mutual legal assistance regimes to ensure that no criminal can find a safe haven anywhere in the world.

More recently, in May, the G8 Summit at Birmingham agreed on a number of additional actions to tackle the threat of international crime.

In their virtual meeting today, the Ministers were able to point to the following progress made on these projects:

High-tech crime

The G8 countries have established a 24-hour network of law enforcement experts capable of responding swiftly to requests for help with investigations that cross international borders, including hacking cases. The network, which is now in use, is open to wider membership and a number of non-G8 countries have already joined. The Lyon Group is pursuing consultations with industry, including internet service providers, on preventing criminal use of networks and ensuring traceability of their communications. It is also developing proposals for a legal framework for retrieving electronic evidence swiftly in cases that cut across international borders.

Money laundering and confiscation of criminal assets

The Birmingham Summit endorsed asset confiscation principles committing the G8 to take effective powers for confiscating criminal proceeds both domestically and at the request of partner countries. A G8 confiscation manual was circulated to practitioners earlier this year. Experts from the US, UK and Canada are drafting a model agreement for sharing confiscated assets. G8 experts are coordinating their work with initiatives in other fora on how to deal with jurisdictions which do not comply with recommended standards against money laundering, and on strengthening collaboration between law enforcement agencies and financial regulators.

Smuggling of illegal migrants and trafficking in human beings

The Ministers took note of progress by experts in developing the strategy, including principles and an action plan, called for by the Birmingham Summit. Experts are pressing ahead to complete this work for submission to the G8 Summit in Cologne next year. G8 experts are developing six operational projects, including operations against forged documents and identified smuggling routes.

UN Convention against transnational organised crime

Support from G8 countries has played an important part in giving new momentum to negotiations on a UN Crime Convention. G8 delegations will collaborate to ensure inclusion of effective and up-to-date measures, for example on money laundering and asset confiscation; and to support protocols on firearms, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

Corruption

The G8 Summit agreed on the need to explore ways of combating official corruption arising from large flows of criminal money. The Ministers have welcomed the intention of the US Government to host a major international conference in the spring on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity Among Justice and Security Officers.

Judicial co-operation

Experts are studying intensified use of video links when witnesses are located abroad. Their next meeting in January will also look at the identification and removal of impediments in existing extradition and mutual legal assistance regimes.

Law enforcement projects

Valuable joint operations have taken place against paedophile activity; international advance fee fraud and other types of crime. The Lyon Group is now focusing on coordinated operations against payment card fraud and joint action against specific criminal organisations. G8 experts are also assessing the involvement of organised crime in illegal trafficking that damages the environment.

TERRORIST FUNDING

Ministers endorsed the conclusions of the London Conference on Terrorism on 7 and 8 December 1998, which had focused in particular on ways of tackling terrorist fundraising, both nationally and internationally. Participants at the conference welcomed the French proposal for a UN Convention on terrorist financing and agreed to work towards its early adoption. In addition, the conference agreed a number of shared principles and action points for taking forward further work in this area. These highlighted the importance of altering the climate in which terrorists operate, and identifying the most effective means, consistent with human rights and freedoms and the rule of law, of tackling the problem of terrorist financing and other terrorist support mechanisms, through the development of legal instruments, practical enforcement action and international cooperation. Ministers stressed the need for early action to follow up the conference by individual States, by the G8 collectively, and in other relevant fora.

Today, the Ministers were pleased with the progress made on these topics but agreed that there is indeed much more to be done. They instructed the Lyon Group to press ahead with its work programme, in preparation for the G8 Summit in Cologne next year.

The Ministers' next live meeting is expected to take place in Moscow later in 1999. Further informal discussion by video link will take place as the need arises.


Source: Canada, Department of Justice.

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