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The Cornerstone Report: Volume 4, Issue 1

Beyond the Border: ICE Partnerships Go Global

U.S., U.K, Canadian and Australian investigators coordinate efforts through the Virtual Global
Task Force, which targets online child exploitation.

Canadian telemarketing schemes that defraud American investors of their savings. Sexual predators on the Internet preying on children in other countries. Drug dealers attempting to transport millions in cash across borders.

The criminal threats of the 21st century are virtually unlimited in their scope. With the expansion of information technology and the ease of travel, criminals and terrorists are newly empowered in their schemes.

That's why ICE has led the way in building partnerships with foreign law enforcement agencies and private sector players around the world, in order to share information and build a united front against today's globalized criminal threats. ICE's Cornerstone initiative is the vehicle for this partnership between law enforcement and private industry.

Through Cornerstone, ICE shares information, methodologies and security technology gleaned from financial investigations with the front-line players in the industry— the people who manage the very systems terrorists and other criminal organizations seek to exploit.

This partnership allows ICE to provide timely information and feedback to businesses and industries so that they can take precautions to protect themselves.

In return, ICE receives information, tips and insights from the businesses and industries that are often first to encounter suspicious activity, “red flags,” in the course of their normal business.

ICE has partnered with the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI) and is a permanent member on the board of directors. ICE is also an active member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a leading interagency investigative task force, and ICE officials offer presentations at industry conferences worldwide.

ICE also works closely with international law enforcement agencies and has provided training to investigators from around the world— including Australia, China, the Middle East, Japan, India, Italy and Bulgaria—on anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing initiatives.

Project COLT

An example of ICE’s partnership with international law enforcement is Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing), the oldest interagency law enforcement partnership in Canada. Project COLT was launched in April 1998 to identify, disrupt and dismantle illegal telemarketing operations and to return seized funds to telemarketing victims.

Comprised of representatives from ICE, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Surete du Quebec (Quebec Provincial Police), the Montreal City Police and the Canadian Competition Bureau, Project COLT is a model for effective international law enforcement cooperation.

To date, Project COLT investigations have led to the recovery and return of $15 million to scam victims, along with 1,215 indictments (413 in the U.S.) and 23 individuals extradited to the U.S. on telemarketing fraud charges.

Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) Program

Part of the battle against political corruption and money laundering, the ICE Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) investigative program was established in 2003.

ICE established the original Foreign Corruption Task Force, also known as the PEP Task Force, in Miami based on requests from Central and South American and Caribbean governments seeking assistance in developing evidence against and locating the assets of corrupt government officials and prominent citizens involved in the theft or embezzlement of government and private funds.

The most successful investigation of this type to date involved former Nicaraguan President ALEMAN who, along with other government officials, were accused of the money laundering, fraud and theft of government property, embezzlement of public funds, and public corruption offenses in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Prosecutor’s Office filed an official request for U.S. assistance in identifying and recovering assets in the U.S. after their investigative efforts revealed that funds obtained by these illegal activities were funneled through bank accounts in Panama and used to purchase high value assets in the U.S. Ultimately, the ensuing investigation led to the seizure of approximately $6 million in assets in the U.S. ICE has forfeited and repatriated approximately $2.7 million to Nicaragua.

Another goal of the task force is to raise awareness of foreign corruption in ICE field offices and to deliver training to foreign governments in identifying patterns of public corruption and how the related proceeds can be laundered through U.S. financial institutions. The Miami PEP Task Force has already delivered extensive training to law enforcement agencies in Central and South America.

Virtual Global Task Force

Created in 2003, the Virtual Global Task (VGT) Force is a law enforcement network comprised of ICE, the Australian High-Tech Crime Centre, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Squad, Canada’s RCMP and Interpol. Under the 24/7-watch system, one nation’s member agency on the task force essentially serves as the on-call Internet police officer for part of each day.

The watch rotation system has already produced early success. In one case, information provided in an Internet chat room and reported to authorities in the U.S. indicated that a man in England planned to molest his children within the next few hours.

Investigators in both countries sprang into action, working through a team comprised of ICE and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in the U.S. and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the local police in the United Kingdom. Within two hours of the first report, local police officers were at his door. Their resulting investigation uncovered images of child pornography and mitigated possible risks posed by him to other children.

Selected ICE Foreign Outreach Highlights

  • Supported the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) program by supplying instructors for their programs in Botswana and Thailand.

  • Provided bulk currency smuggling investigation training in support of the Asian Pacific Group in Brunei.

  • Provided continuous support of the Organization of American States (OAS) as the only U.S. law enforcement agency invited to participate in the training of mid-level law enforcement officers from Central and South American countries.

  • Supported the first ILEA Latin America class held in El Salvador.

  • Offered training, technical assistance and instruction on conducting international money laundering and financial crimes investigations to foreign police and judicial officials. This training was performed in support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), IAFCI and ILEA programs.

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