Posted on Mon, Jul. 25, 2011
last updated: March 15, 2013 11:57:56 AM
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration moved Monday to crack down on international criminal networks from Mexico, Italy, Japan and the former Soviet Union, calling them a growing threat to U.S. interests.
Administration officials said the groups are alarmingly sophisticated and powerful, able to corrupt foreign governments and reach across international borders with illegal drugs, money laundering, sex trafficking and theft.
Potentially worse, the gangs are developing ties to terrorist organizations, the administration said. One fear: that one of the criminal networks might help a terrorist acquire the materials needed for a weapon of mass destruction.
"Organized crime is no longer a local or regional problem. It has become a danger to international stability," President Barack Obama said in a letter to Congress.
"Significant transnational criminal organizations have become increasingly sophisticated and dangerous to the United States and their activities have reached such scope and gravity that they destabilize the international system," the letter said.
Among its new steps, the administration said it will freeze U.S. assets of the gangs, block members from entry to the U.S., and ask Congress to update racketeering laws to make it easier to investigate and prosecute members.
"These proposals will help to ensure ... that prosecutors and investigators have the capacity to keep pace with the unprecedented threats posed by criminal enterprises that target the United States, including those that operate beyond our borders," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a White House news conference.
The targeted gangs were:
It's also involved in extortion, human trafficking, intellectual property theft and murder. In February, Los Zetas members killed a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and wounded another.
Active internationally in counterfeiting and narcotics, it earns as much as 10 percent of its $25 billion-a-year profit from the sale of counterfeit goods such as CDs, DVDs, luxury clothing, power tools and software in the U.S. and Europe. That undermines sales of legitimate U.S. products and robs U.S. copyright holders of profits.
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