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Combating International African Crime

Combating International African Crime

Statement of Thomas J. Kneir, Deputy Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, Washington D.C., July 15, 1998.

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, and fellow panel members: I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to discuss the increasing threat of international crime committed by African nationals.

The most significant identified international African crime group having an impact on the United States are the West African/Nigerian criminal groups commonly referred to as Nigerian Criminal Enterprises (NCEs). Approximately one-fifth (1/5) of Africa's population is of Nigerian decent. Citizens of other African countries such as Ghana, South Africa, and Benin participate and are known to engage in criminal activities with NCEs. During the past fifteen years, NCEs have exploited financial institutions, insurance companies, government entitlement programs, and individual citizens of the United States. Law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Russia and other countries are also experiencing high crime rates attributable to NCEs.

NCEs are involved in a myriad of criminal endeavors including, but not limited to: drug trafficking, especially heroin and cocaine; financial crimes; money laundering; counterfeit and altered documents and immigration benefit fraud; trafficking in persons (alien smuggling) and contraband; and corruption. NCEs are seldom, if ever, engaged in drug trafficking to the exclusion of other types of crime. In respect to white collar crime, a typical NCE organization in the U.S. will operate in small inter-related cells and have international contacts of NCEs operating in other foreign countries. A common practice among NCEs is to produce fraudulent documents such as pay stubs, income tax returns, employee ID cards, passports, and other types of documents to create alias identities. These fraudulent documents are then used in obtaining mailboxes to receive misdirected mail to steal debit and credit cards; to open bank accounts; to incorporate businesses; to obtain HUD section 8 subsidies, or to use in medical and other frauds such as mortgage loans, small business loans, and student loans. An example of a current ongoing investigation involves NCE members in the U.S. obtaining stolen checks from a U.S. based company and creating fraudulent pay stubs. The stolen/counterfeit instruments are sent across international boundaries to impede national stolen instrument reporting data bases. The NCEs overseas will then use the pay stubs and other forms of fraudulent identification to negotiate the stolen checks.

NCEs are known to associate with criminal enterprises in other foreign countries. For years NCEs have had a presence in Southeast and Southwest Asia, particularly Thailand and Pakistan, where they establish and maintain contacts with narcotics distributors to obtain heroin for distribution in the United States, Europe, and other countries. NCEs are also present in South America, particularly Brazil and Colombia, to negotiate cocaine and heroin purchases. South Africa is a major transshipment point used by NCEs for cocaine emanating from Brazil.

To address this growing crime problem, the FBI and representatives from all federal law enforcement agencies launched a Nigerian Strategy to identify and to combat Nigerian crime in the United States. On September 9, 1996, the Attorney General met with senior representatives of all federal law enforcement, including the FBI; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)/Crime and Narcotics Center (CNC); Department of State's (DOS) Consular Affairs Office; DOS Diplomatic Security Service; Internal Revenue Service (IRS); United States Secret Service (USSS); National Security Council (NSC); National Security Agency (NSA); and U.S. Custom Service (USCS). The Attorney General directed the group to coordinate efforts among all federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against Nigerian crime.

In response to this mandate, the NCE Initiative was created. As part of this Initiative, the participating agencies formed working groups, developed a strategy for addressing Nigerian crime, and began to establish regional Nigerian criminal task forces, and a data base to share case information.

The participating agencies agreed to utilize the multi-agency task force concept to address the NCE crime problem domestically. It has been agreed to utilize existing USSS "West African Task Forces" to facilitate the coordination of this effort. These task forces were originally designed to address white collar crime to include fraudulent schemes to obtain monies from U.S. citizens. However, the Nigerian Crime Working Groups are working to expand the scope and structure of the USSS task forces to respond to all criminal violations perpetrated by the NCEs including drug trafficking. The primary focus of the task forces is to allow the investigative agents to concentrate on the organization as a whole and not just specific aspects of certain crimes. The United States Attorneys Office (USAO) will participate in the structuring of the task forces to ensure that prosecutive guidelines will be met. The DOJ NCE Initiative working group consisting of representatives of each participating agency will make on site visits to each city to help coordinate and organize the NCE task force. Starting in FY 1998, the FBI will assign at least one Special Agent to each task force. It is anticipated that 15 task forces will be established by the end of FY 2000.

All participating federal agencies have agreed that the Anti-Drug Network (ADNET) is the vehicle for the domestic exchange of intelligence concerning NCEs. ADNET is a U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) managed program which allows for the secure transfer and sharing of drug and white collar-related law enforcement data among agencies. The use of ADNET, in a "real-time" full text multi-agency information sharing environment is the cornerstone of the NCE Initiative. Currently, participating agencies are uploading existing Nigerian data to include investigative reports, biographical data, photographs, and other relevant information onto ADNET. In FY 1998, ADNET terminals will be placed in each participating agencies' headquarters, five existing USSS task force sites including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York, and Newark, and the U.S. Embassies in Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana. By FY 2000, ADNET terminals will be placed in an additional ten cities which have yet to be determined. The Nigerian web site within ADNET will be available to identified and authorized NCE task force members. All authorized members of each participating agency will be able to access each agency's data.

The FBI believes that this effort, whereby federal agencies meaningfully share case information on a real-time basis, is the method in which law enforcement will efficiently interact in the future. Agencies will be able to better utilize resources through the benefit of expanded investigative data bases. Further, agencies will be able to share multi-agency information in a significant manner.

There are two short term goals for fiscal years 1998 & 1999. The first is the collection phase and the second is the target phase. The collection phase involves the uploading of information onto the ADNET data base for selected cities based on a multi-agency collection process. To ensure the continued success of the collection phase the FBI has implemented the following strategy: 1)seek ADNET funding for FY 1999; 2)complete collection of white collar crime and drug investigative case data from the field for uploading onto ADNET; 3)assist other agencies in training of viable collection methods and develop a more systematic collection methodology for ADNET by exploitation of current computer capability. The FBI has taken the lead in this effort within the NCE initiative and currently has over 67,000 records uploaded onto ADNET.

The target phase involves the development of a target list of NCEs and formation of a multi-agency task force to address the target list. This phase requires the assignment of FBI field office personnel (WCC and Drug) to USSS task forces; liaison with the intelligence community, the private sector, and other law enforcement agencies; obtaining information concerning current trends and methods in smuggling, organizational structure, communications, finances, money laundering, and fraud; and, utilization of the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) to analyze all collected data from the participating agencies to establish viable national NCE targets.

The long term goals of this strategy are to identify major NCE targets and coordinate the conduct of joint national investigations, promote the NCE Initiative and coordinate regional training conferences, establish/coordinate a working group to identify an existing system or develop a mechanism for sharing intelligence on an expanded international level, and conduct NCE investigations with our international counterparts.

Successes to date include "Global Sea" which is a federal joint investigation involving the FBI, DEA, USCS, USSS, and INS. The investigation focuses on a Nigerian heroin trafficking organization operating in Chicago, Illinois. This organization was known to smuggle multi-kilogram quantities of Southeast Asian heroin from Thailand through Europe and Mexico to Chicago, IL, where it was distributed throughout the United States. The investigation utilized several court authorized Title IIIs, which resulted in the identification of various smuggling methods and routes used by couriers. Tentacles to the organization were identified in various cities throughout the U.S., and overseas.

On October 11, 1996, federal law enforcement personnel and local police agencies in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Detroit, Pakistan, and Bangkok executed numerous search warrants and arrested 21 subjects. Pursuant to these searches, approximately three kilograms of heroin, approximately $250,000 U.S. currency, and several vehicles were seized.

Because of the fluid nature of NCEs, law enforcement agencies of the United States government recognized that a cooperative, multi-agency approach is the most effective means of investigation. The NCEs operate in small inter-related cells committing a variety of crimes including some below federal prosecutive guidelines if addressed as a single violation. The FBI has had success in addressing NCEs on a case by case basis relating to specific crimes, but realizes that a unified approach targeting the NCE organization as a whole is the best way to disrupt and dismantle the organization.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).