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The Response to International Crime

The International Response

The European Union

The relative prosperity of the EU makes it a target for organised criminals and an attractive destination for smuggled goods. Fighting crime at home and overseas has been a priority for the EU since the adoption of the EU Action Plan against Organised Crime in April 1997.

The EU finances organised crime fighting studies and measures in support of the Action Plan with funds made available under the Falcone Programme. In 2000 the Falcone budget was £1.22 million. Funds from other EU development programmes e.g. PHARE are also available for law enforcement training or judicial institution building.

In addition to the many bilateral working arrangements between Member States that have developed over the years, the EU continues to improve collaborative crime fighting arrangements within the Union via Europol, Police Chiefs Task Force, Mutual Legal Assistance and 24 hour law enforcement hotlines. EU applicant countries, which today serve as jumping-off points for criminals targeting the EU, are being encouraged to share information on organised criminal activity, gathered by their own law enforcement agencies, with neighbouring countries and with EU member states. Much of the assistance currently provided to applicant countries in the area of Justice and Home Affairs will ensure eventual compatibility with EU institutions and strengthen judicial institutions and law enforcement capabilities.

The European Union has also recently agreed its Second Money Laundering Directive providing for a common regulatory framework across the European Union to assist anti-money laundering activities.

The Council of Europe

Along with other members, the UK signed the Council of Europe Convention on Cyber-crime when it opened for signature in Budapest on 23 November 2001. The Convention deals with criminal offences relating to interference with systems, unauthorised access, electronic fraud and forgery, offensive content and intellectual property offences. This Convention is the first binding multilateral agreement specifically to address the problems posed by the international nature of cyber crime.

The Council of Europe's 1990 Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds of Crime, which is open for signature by non-Council of Europe members, has been another useful instrument for tackling money laundering. Through this the expertise of the international community has been deployed to help individual countries to identify and rectify weaknesses in their anti-money laundering systems. The UK ratified the 1990 Council of Europe Money Laundering Convention (also know as the Strasbourg Convention) in 1992.

The G8

G8 work on crime began with a remit from the 1995 Summit in Halifax to look at existing arrangements for dealing with transnational organised crime and recommend improvements. An experts group was assembled, with UK participation from the Organised and International Crime Directorate of the Home Office, the Immigration Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers, NCIS, the National Crime Squad, HMCE and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Following the Lyon Summit in 1996, which endorsed wide ranging recommendations prepared by the group, the group became known as the Lyon Group and its subgroups have since done detailed work on:

  • practical law enforcement projects;
  • mutual legal assistance and extradition;
  • firearms;
  • alien smuggling and forged documents; and
  • 'high tech' crime including criminal use of the Internet.
The Denver Summit particularly emphasised the need for progress on tackling high tech crime. G8 Justice and Interior Ministers meeting in Washington in December 1997 agreed a ten-point action plan. The plan includes a review of legislation, a network of 24-hour contact points on high tech crime capable of swift assistance in urgent cases, measures for preserving electronic evidence and making it available in foreign criminal proceedings and workshops between representatives of G8 Governments and members of the IT industry. At the same time, a subgroup on computer related crime produced a number of initiatives to ease cross border electronic searches and the tracing of communications.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the UN office with responsibility for crime prevention, criminal justice and criminal law reform on a global basis. The Office assists countries in the elaboration, ratification and implementation of international criminal law conventions and protocols, including most recently the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The UNODC also defines and promotes internationally recognised principles in such areas as independence of the judiciary, protection of victims, alternatives to imprisonment, treatment of prisoners, police use of force, mutual legal assistance and extradition. More than 100 countries have relied on the Office's criminal justice standards and norms for the elaboration of national legislation and policies in matters of crime prevention and criminal justice, leading to a common foundation in the fight against international crime that respects human rights.

The smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of human beings for prostitution and slave labour by organised crime groups are two of the fastest growing global problems in recent years. The Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings will enable countries of origin, transit and destination to develop joint strategies and practical action against human trading.

Criminal groups have established international networks to better carry out their activities both in licit and illicit markets by employing sophisticated technology and techniques. The Global Programme against Transnational Organised Crime maps the latest trends of organised criminal groups and highlights their potential worldwide danger.

UNODC promotes research and studies new and emerging forms of crime in co-operation with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). The Centre maintains the Internet-based United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network (UNCJIN), a substantial database of www links to criminal justice related sites.

In 2001/02 the FCO provided $190,000 to finance a UNODC project to strengthen the local criminal justice response to people trafficking in the Slovak Republic. The FCO also donated £220,000 to enable regional conferences to be held in Quito, Vilnius and Algiers as part of the UNODC's global programme in support of UNTOC ratification.



UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC)

In December 2000 negotiations were completed on the text of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), which opened for signature on 12 December in Palermo, Sicily. The UK Mission to the UN in Vienna played a leading role in negotiating the final text. The Convention provides for what is potentially a world-wide framework for co-operation against organised crime. Its key provisions are:

  • A common definition of organised crime (three or more persons acting together over a period of time to commit one or more serious crimes);
  • An obligation to establish as criminal offences, money laundering, corruption, participating in an organised criminal group and obstruction of justice;
  • Powers to confiscate the proceeds of crime; Judicial Co-operation (extradition and mutual assistance); Co-operation on law enforcement; Assistance to enable developing countries to implement the Convention.
The UK is continuing to encourage and, where necessary, assisting incorporation of the provisions of the Convention into domestic law around the world. Two Protocols to the Convention similarly designed to improve co-operation in the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings were also opened for signature in Palermo. The text of a third Protocol to prevent the illegal manufacture of and trafficking in firearms completed in May 2001 opened for signature in New York in July 2001.

The United Nations has included the issue of crime involving computer or telecommunication technologies. The UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime will also apply where computer or telecommunications networks are used by offenders in support of more traditional forms of transnational organised crime.

The UK response

Bilateral Co-operation

In addition to donations and subscriptions to international crime fighting organisations or projects, the FCO has directly funded anti-crime measures overseas. These donations are often in support of collaborative work carried out between UK and overseas law enforcement agencies in the context of bilateral Multi-Agency Memoranda of Understanding (MAMOUs). The UK has 15 negotiated bilateral Memoranda of Understanding to assist the exchange of information between UK law enforcement agencies and overseas counterparts.

Law Enforcement

National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS)

Created in 1992, NCIS is responsible for the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence on major criminals involved in serious crime. NCIS is based in London and has seven regional offices staffed by more than 500 directly employed or seconded staff from over 25 agencies. NCIS does not conduct its own anti-crime operations. Individual police services, the National Crime Squad or HMCE carry out the operational role in detection and prevention. NCIS's International Liaison Unit controls the network of NCIS Drugs and Crime Liaison Officers stationed in diplomatic posts in Europe and is responsible for maintaining UK operational co-operation with both Europol and Interpol. From April 1 2002, NCIS has been a non-departmental public body.


HM Customs and Excise (HMCE)

HMCE is responsible for preventing and detecting illegal import and export of controlled drugs, the investigation of organisations and individuals engaged in international drug smuggling, their prosecution and identification of the proceeds of such crime. In addition, HMCE has a vital front-line role in protecting the UK from alcohol and tobacco smuggling and tax fraud, which in 2000 cost the Exchequer £4.1 billion. HMCE's Law Enforcement division is mainly concerned with the identification and targeting of large-scale drugs smuggling and associated money laundering. The service has an international focus and strives to develop co-operation through joint operations with the police service and other agencies at home and abroad. The Maritime Branch is responsible for marine operations to detect and interdict traffic by sea and for developing international co-operation in this field. HMCE's Law Enforcement division is also responsible for the management of the HMCE Drugs Liaison Officer network and for operational intelligence resources.


The National Crime Squad (NCS)

The NCS was launched on 1 April 1998: 'To combat national and transnational serious and organised crime'. The work of the NCS is focused on six objectives set by the Home Secretary and the NCS Service Authority. These objectives address organised crime, combating illegal drugs, intelligence, integrity, partnerships and support to forces. In its first year the NCS recovered £81 million of illicit drugs, traced £31 million of criminally acquired assets and £14 million of stolen property. Equally important in terms of support to other agencies, the NCS assisted police and Customs in the seizure of £51 million of drugs and other recoveries.


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