The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, recently established another weapon in the battle against foreign bribery and kleptocracy-related criminal activity: three dedicated international corruption squads, based in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
According to the FBI, foreign bribery incidents increasingly are tied to a type of government corruption known as kleptocracy, a form of political or government corruption involving foreign officials who steal from their government treasuries to enrich their own personal wealth. Last year, for example, the Justice Department forfeited more than $480 million in corruption proceeds hidden in bank accounts around the world by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates. It was the largest forfeiture ever obtained through a kleptocracy action.
Special Agent George McEachern, who heads up the International Corruption Unit at the FBI, explains that the international corruption squads were created to address the national and international implications of corruption. “The FCPA allows us to target the supply side of corruption—the entities giving the bribes,” he said.
“Kleptocracy cases allow us to address the demand side—the corrupt officials and their illicit financial assets,” McEachern added. “By placing both threats under one squad, we anticipate that an investigation into one of these criminal activities could potentially generate an investigation into the other.”
“Corruption cases, in general, are tough to investigate because much of the actual criminal activity is hidden from view, but international corruption cases are even tougher because the criminal activity usually takes place outside of the United States,” the FBI stated. Members of the newly created squads—agents, analysts, and other professional staff—will have at their disposal a number of investigative tools the FBI uses in other areas—such as financial analysis, court-authorized wiretaps, undercover operations, informants, and sources.
“Partnerships with our overseas law enforcement counterparts—facilitated by our network of legal attaché offices situated strategically around the world—are an important part of our investigative arsenal,” the FBI stated. In addition to coordinating with the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI said it also takes part in a number of international working groups, including the Foreign Bribery Task Force, to share information with its partners and help strengthen investigative efforts everywhere.
The FBI added the new squads “will help keep the Bureau at the forefront of U.S. and global law enforcement efforts to battle international corruption and kleptocracy.”