A recent announcement about North Korea ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCATOC) ought to be taken as a heads-up warning. Given the extent of Pyongyang’s deep involvement in transnational criminal activity, signing a convention the purpose of which is to eliminate such enterprise is outrageously ludicrous – an unmitigated farce.
After wading through the diplomatic and legalistic wording of the document, some interesting aspects come to light. Articles of the Convention address the distribution of drugs, governmental corruption, laundering money (which includes counterfeiting), and trafficking in people. Naturally, these topics are the core focus and the primary concern of such a document. However, equally important, especially with regard to North Korea, are the articles about cooperation, obstruction of justice, and the sharing of best practices.
Previously, I wrote about how the decision to allow Pyongyang into the global electronic financial transaction network known as SWIFT was analogous to allowing the fox into the henhouse. Well, North Korea’s signing the UNCATOC is like having the Godfather family being given access to the inner workings of the law enforcement authorities and judicial officials who are attempting to identify, indict, prosecute, convict, and punish them.
NOTEWORTHY SPECIFICS OF THE CONVENTION
Article 13 of the Convention clearly states that signatories are to assist other states when requested in the identification, tracking, seizure, and forfeiture of equipment, instrumentalities, or property that are the proceeds of crime. This cooperation includes extradition and the transfer of sentenced defendants, as well as, quoting here, “the widest measure of mutual legal assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings.” For some specific examples of this, see below. Detail-oriented readers are referred to the Convention itself, which is available for download in pdf format here.
Perhaps what should be of greatest concern is the provision for sharing strategies, tactics, and procedures used to fight transnational organized crime. The tools developed by and for law enforcement agencies spell out how such crimes are identified, tracked, interdicted, disrupted, and prosecuted. Article 20 of the UNCATOC encourages parties to the Convention to establish agreements for using special investigative techniques at the international level. When such agreements do not exist, cooperation is urged on a case-by-case basis.
Of particular interest is Article 23 which makes the obstruction of justice a crime. In addition to using force, threats, or intimidation to interfere with or prevent testimony or the introduction of evidence regarding transnational organized crime, offering inducements to give false testimony is criminalized. Furthermore, the use of force, threats, or intimidation to interfere with the legal actions of law enforcement or judicial authorities are offenses.
Article 27 requires that law enforcement agencies cooperate closely with one another regarding
- “The identity, whereabouts and activities of persons suspected of involvement in such offences or the location of other persons concerned;
- The movement of proceeds of crime or property derived from the commission of such offences;
- The movement of property, equipment or other instrumentalities used or intended for use in the commission of such offences.”
Article 29 requires that signatories develop and share analytical expertise in such areas as
- “Methods used in the prevention, detection and control of the offences covered by this Convention;
- Routes and techniques used by persons suspected of involvement in offences covered by this Convention, including in transit States, and appropriate countermeasures;
- Monitoring of the movement of contraband;
- Detection and monitoring of the movements of proceeds of crime, property, equipment or other instrumentalities and methods used for the transfer, concealment or disguise of such proceeds, property, equipment or other instrumentalities, as well as methods used in combating money-laundering and other financial crimes;
- Collection of evidence;
- Control techniques in free trade zones and free ports;
- Modern law enforcement equipment and techniques, including electronic surveillance, controlled deliveries and undercover operations;
- Methods used in combating transnational organized crime committed through the use of computers, telecommunications networks or other forms of modern technology; and
- Methods used in the protection of victims and witnesses.”
CONCLUSION – BUT NOT THE END
As sources of revenue dry up, it is more than likely that North Korea will seek more ways to circumvent sanctions imposed by the UN and other countries. The North’s need for hard currency is too great and its legitimate sources of revenue are utterly inadequate to expect otherwise.
As to the report that Pyongyang has ratified the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes, please recall what happened when North Korea was allowed into the Society on Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. The North learned enough about the system that they were able to hack a number of banks and snatch up a hefty sum of money.
With access to behind-the-scenes crime fighting information by virtue of being a signatory to the UNCATOC, the North will gain knowledge on the tools used by domestic and international law enforcement agencies in combating the very activities that are significant sources of the regime’s revenue. This is akin to acquiring the battle plans of the enemy. We should all ponder American baseball great Yogi Berra’s celebrated malapropism: “It’s deja vu all over again!”
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