May 26, 2016
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I wish to extend a special welcome to Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucić, Minister of Justice Nikola Selaković, MOI State Secretary Aleksandar Nikolic, Amb. Giuseppe Manzo, and Amb. Arne Sannes Bjørnstad. We also have a number experts present; thank all of you — presenters, experts, and participants, for coming to this very important program.
Organized crime is a major threat to all our countries. It is the “dark side” of globalization. Organized crime knows no boundaries or borders. It operates transnationally. In fact, I’m told it is the only area where cooperation between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians flourishes! The fight against organized crime is, therefore, critical to this region’s future.
Organized criminal networks are no longer simple enterprises. They are modern, wired, and have learned to quickly adapt to change by seizing opportunities — often faster than we as a society can react. Through corruption, organized crime groups weaken governmental institutions. By trafficking drugs they undermine public health and ruin countless lives. As merchants of weapons and people, organized criminal groups are piercing borders designed to protect our citizens.
Modern organized criminal groups operate like corporations. They have the size, structure and resources to thrive in the global market. To confront them, we need to be just as fast, just as modern and just as potent. We need advanced IT solutions. This is especially true when cases are complex and require coordinating with multiple agencies and actors.
The U.S. is proud of the role we have played in supporting Serbia and other countries in this region in this endeavour. Through the Department of Justice’s OPDAT program, the U.S. Embassy has made a significant contribution to Serbia’s ability to carry out intelligence-led investigations, searches, and seizures. The result is solid convictions. We contributed approximately $80,000 towards development and installation of the advanced data analysis software system for the Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office, complementing the OSCE’s significant contribution, and an additional $80,000 in hardware – computers, scanners, and laptops. This data analysis software enables the OCPO to store and analyze investigative data, and has made the OCPO one of the most technologically sophisticated organized crime prosecution units in the region.
Our ICITAP program has also made significant contributions helping the Ministry of the Interior improve its management of complex data in organized crime cases. It has provided approximately $700,000 in hardware as well as $200,000 for specialized software. This helped establish and maintain the Operational Analysis Network (OAN), which is helping the MOI connect all 27 Police Directorates to Police Headquarters here in Belgrade. This links information to further organized crime investigations in an efficient and effective way.
The key to fighting complex organized crime is for law enforcement and prosecutors to effectively work together to use these tools. Intelligence comes from many sources; police officers, investigators, tax and market inspectors, customs officials, border personnel, undercover agents, government employees, and citizens from all walks of life. This data must be shared, to de-conflict and prevent duplication of effort, but also to protect the sources of that information.
You will hear more during this program, from one of our U.S. federal prosecutors, who lives in Serbia, about U.S. law enforcement’s use of task forces to accomplish such goals. You already have the basis for a similar approach in Serbia through its prosecutor led investigations. I strongly encourage you to continue to develop these tasks forces to target these complex organize criminal enterprises that threaten all of us.
We often talk about institution building and the importance of strengthening the capacities of institutions that can fight organized crime and corruption. But the single greatest asset of any institution is the people who work there. If each of you departs from this workshop with one new tool in your toolbox that allows you to have an impact on crime and corruption in your country, then this workshop will have been a success. By bringing professionals such as you together, we begin to build trust – trust that will allow the free exchange of information. Each of you has the same goal, providing a safe and secure community where your children and your children’s children can grow. Good luck to you, and thank you for what you are doing to keep us all safe.