150 experts from European and Latin American public institutions meet in Panama to highlight specific policies to dismantle the economics of organised crime
“The fight against organised crime will not be solved with just the persecution and imprisonment of drug traffickers and traffickers – dismantling their economy with true international cooperation would limit their real possibilities to act.
This is where the concept of international alliances comes into its own: The EU and Latin America are talking to each other, cooperating and reaching agreements,” said Inma Zamora, the general secretary of FIIAPP during the meeting, which ends today.
FIIAPP has mobilised experts from the State Attorney General’s Office for this programme.
After the year-long hiatus resulting from the restrictions arising from the pandemic, the event has brought together more than 150 representatives from European and Latin American institutions who specialise in illicit financial flows.
The meeting has been organised within the framework of the European EL PAcCTO programme, co-led by the Spanish and French cooperation agencies FIIAPP and Expertise France, which specialise in the strengthening of public systems in the world. The project is also supported by Italy’s IILA and Camoes from Portugal.
The Panama Declaration arising from the meeting reflects the concern of the participating countries regarding a “phenomenon that is acquiring worrying proportions throughout the world and that requires a change in strategy and transnational proactive, coordinated and innovative responses that promote constructive dialogue and effective cooperation between different stakeholders.”
The Declaration includes specific courses of action, including the adaptation of legislation on the matter to facilitate the identification of assets from crime, the use of confiscation or extinction of domain processes, the development of technological tools to facilitate access to digital information or the strengthening of technical capacities and specialisation in financial crime of the officials in charge of the investigation and prosecution of these matters. The importance of the joint work undertaken by the European Union, Latin American and Caribbean countries and other regional, Latin American and European stakeholders to build structured models of inter-institutional coordination and international cooperation is also stressed.
For two days, more than 150 specialists addressed how to tackle this problem from a global perspective – where does the money come from, how can the problem be confronted and how institutions can cooperate with each other to fight against it.
Institutional coordination and specialisation will undoubtedly play a key role in the future for those taking part.
Chris Hoornaert, the European Union’s Ambassador to Panama and Jorge de la Caballería, head of Unit B1 of the European Commission’s General Directorate of International Alliances participated in the opening session, which pointed to the need to “deprive organised criminal groups of their economic and financial resources as the most effective way to fight organised crime.
This means adapting the legislation, the specialisation of officialsin the criminal chain and better international cooperation tools.”
María Eugenia López Arias, the presiding magistrate of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama, referred to this money as “a reality that offers no respite for the institutions combatting organised crime”, while Ivor Pittí, the Vice Minister of Security Public of Panama, highlighted “the strengthening of international cooperation (…) as only working together can deal with organised crime.”
In addition to sowing terror and destruction wherever they are committed, organised crimes such as drug smuggling, human trafficking and the trafficking of wild animals are financed through black money from organised crime, generating revenue for criminal organisations that run into the millions. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the money generated by criminal activities around the world is around 4% of world GDP. Although this is illegal money, these huge sums make organised crime one of the economic sectors that move the most money in the world. Crime finances also seriously affect the economic and social growth of countries, discouraging public and private investment and weakening institutions due to corruption and reduced tax revenues which hamper the effective fight against transnational organised crime.
During the opening speech, the Team Europe Initiative on Governance, Justice and Security was presented, which seeks to promote international associations in this area and in which the European Union can leverage the contribution and added value of the European players that participate therein.
Jorge de la Caballería and Claudia Gintersdorfer, head of the Americas Division of the European External Action Service are responsible for presenting the initiative with its triple objective – to strengthen regional and intercontinental cooperation networks to combat organised crime, to dismantle the main transnational markets of the organised crime in Latin America and the Caribbean and reinforce the rule of law in the region.
Jérôme Heitz, Director of the Department of Peace, Stability and Security at Expertise France, explained the pioneering idea from which EL PAcCTO emerged: “This is the laboratory for what the Team Europe Initiative could be. Its efficiency has been demonstrated by providing expertise and good practices from four European Union countries working together as a team.”