Good afternoon. It has been more than 20 years since an Attorney General from the United States has visited the Kingdom of Thailand, and it is both an honor and a pleasure to be with you today in your beautiful country.
I am especially proud to be speaking to you in this impressive auditorium at the Judicial Training Institute of the Office of the Judiciary. Although I now serve in the executive branch of government, I served for more than 18 years as a federal judge in New York City, and I have great respect both for the institution of the judiciary, and for judges themselves who must make careful judgments about important, and often difficult, questions every day.
One hundred and seventy-five years ago, the United States and Thailand signed what is known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. That makes Thailand our oldest ally and partner in Asia, and one of our closest friends.
Together, we have done a lot to be proud of: We have provided others with relief after natural disasters; we have ensured the peace and security of the region; we have led the way with life-saving medical treatment; and we have encouraged and maintained trade that has boosted the economies of both our countries.
We also have a great story to tell about the cooperation between our two countries in my principal area of concern: law enforcement.
General law enforcement cooperation
Every day, law enforcement authorities from both our countries work closely together to bring dangerous criminals to justice. With the permission of the Kingdom of Thailand, the United States has law enforcement agents stationed here to work with their colleagues from the Royal Thai Police, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Anti-Money Laundering Office and others.
Two experienced prosecutors from the Department of Justice are posted at our embassy to work closely with your Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice on operational and training matters. Their efforts benefit from two strong treaties, one on extradition, the other on mutual legal assistance.
Over the past 30 years, we've had more than 100 extraditions between the United States and Thailand under the treaty. The list of offenses for which defendants have been extradited between our countries is long; it includes terrorism, murder and violent crime, child exploitation, human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, fraud, money laundering, intellectual property crime, and corruption.
Our relationship is of long standing and it runs deep, lately it has also been especially productive.
Just in the month of February, for example, a defendant in a major heroin trafficking organization was extradited to face trial in New York; a distributor of child pornography was extradited to face trial in Washington, D.C.; a bank robber was deported to face trial in Texas; and the Royal Thai Police arrested a defendant wanted by the United States for defrauding a hospital out of more than $1 million.
Then in March, international arms trafficker Viktor Bout was apprehended by the Royal Thai Police following a lengthy investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, and is now in custody awaiting extradition proceedings. The Royal Thai Police also seized two men in Pattaya who were wanted for online distribution of steroids.
All these cases involved close cooperation between our governments. Our relationship has proved to be not just enduring, but flexible as well. In one recent case, for example, an American citizen was wanted by Thai authorities to stand trial for his involvement in a plot in 2001 to bomb the Vietnamese embassy on Wireless Road. Following that attempt, which fortunately failed, the defendant fled to the United States, where he where he was arrested and held in custody on terrorism-related charges for the attempted bombing. But based on Thailand?s request under the extradition treaty, we dismissed the U.S. charges quickly and he was extradited to Bangkok.
Our decision to defer to the Thai charges recognized practical considerations for example, the critical evidence and witnesses were in Bangkok; we recognized also Thailand?s strong interest in prosecuting this defendant here. This coordinated prosecution strategy was vindicated when a Thai Criminal Court convicted this American defendant on explosives charges last year.
I could spend all day giving examples of our close cooperation, and exhaust myself, and probably all of you, praising people whose hard work has made all of our citizens safer. Rather than do that, I would like to talk about the success we have enjoyed and the progress we have made together in three fields: international organized crime, intellectual property rights, and human trafficking.
International organized crime
Two months ago, I announced a newly organized effort by the United States to fight the threat of international organized crime. Of course, criminals in the U.S., as in Thailand, have been organized and international for a long time, and we have been fighting them for a long time. But the specific threats we face today are more sophisticated, and operate on a greater scale, than anything we've faced before.
We know that, in recent years, international organized crime has expanded considerably ? both geographically and in its sophistication ? and it now threatens in many ways how we all live, work and do business.
Some of the most significant international organized criminals are infiltrating strategic industries in the United States and other countries, are providing logistical support to terrorist organizations, and are able to create havoc in our global economic infrastructure.
There are people in both of our countries who do not realize or do not wish to realize, the danger posed by this new kind of organized crime; they may purposely close their eyes due to fear, or simply may not understand its effect. But our governments do not have that luxury or that excuse—we must acknowledge the threat, and we must do something about it.
That is why we are fighting back, and I'm pleased to say that we count Thailand as a crucial ally.
A great example of our cooperation in this area is the case of Min Hui Loi, also known as ?Johnny,? a major Chinese organized crime figure who operated in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and other countries in Southeast Asia.
Loi was the main supplier for a far-flung heroin-trafficking operation, as well as a feared and powerful leader of a Singapore-Chinese Triad that was involved in offenses ranging from corruption to smuggling, from prostitution to drug-dealing, and from gambling to extortion. He also had long-standing ties with Italian-American mafia members in the United States.
It took years of investigation by the Justice Department and our counterparts here in Thailand and throughout Asia before Thai police finally caught up with Loi and arrested him. Cooperation between our two countries was absolutely indispensible in this case.
Authorities here participated in critical undercover operations, conducted extensive surveillance on Loi and other targets of the investigation, provided documentary evidence in response to mutual legal assistance treaty requests, and extradited him to the United States to stand trial. What's more, Thailand also transferred a critical witness who was serving a life sentence here to the United States to testify against Loi ? the first time that has ever been done in this region, and a meaningful step in the development of effective witness protection measures.
In the end, your cooperation enabled us to jail a significant international organized crime figure, one who had been virtually immune from prosecution due to the complexity of his operations. After being confronted with the several witnesses who were going to testify against him, Loi pleaded guilty on the first day of trial and received a sentence of more than 12 years in prison.
The threat posed by organized criminals like Loi is not one faced only by Thailand, or only by the United States. Countries that used to see these criminal operations as somebody else's problem have begun to recognize that crime disregards borders in the same way that the world's economy does. We have to continue to reach beyond our borders to fight that crime.
One type of crime that these groups have found attractive and relatively simple to conduct across borders is the marketing of counterfeit intellectual property. Fighting this type of crime is important not only because the presence of counterfeit goods in the global market threatens the global economy. Because counterfeit goods purchased by our citizens could threaten their health and safety, whether those goods show up as counterfeit parts in electronic devices or vehicles that fail; or out of date or mishandled or outright fake medicines that either do not cure or inflict additional injury; or unauthorized copies of musical recordings or motion pictures that deny those who created them the earned benefit of their work, and at the same time destroy the incentive of creative people to enrich our lives with the product of their genius.
Businesses rely increasingly on intellectual property rights to generate revenue; markets around the world rely increasingly on the protection of intellectual property rights to create incentives for entrepreneurs, artists and businesses to develop new and safe technologies and products. But the technological advances that have created unprecedented business opportunities for intellectual property worldwide have also provided an attractive target for criminals seeking to profit from the innovation of others.
Criminals, whether associated with international organized crime or not, are better connected and more sophisticated technically than ever before. And the high value of intellectual property today creates big incentives for counterfeiting.
To fight these criminals, we have built strong relationships with partners around the globe, including in Southeast Asia, and we are working throughout the region to improve cooperation.
In January 2006, for example, we designated the Justice Department?s Attaché in Bangkok as our first Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator, or IPLEC, for Asia. The work of this prosecutor, together with other dedicated investigators and prosecutors in this region, has produced unprecedented cooperation on intellectual property cases.
Our greatest concern here is to protect the public from counterfeit products that fall short of the quality and safety standards required of authentic, regulated goods. In recent years, we've seen cases involving fake automobile and airplane parts that can fail, with tragic results, counterfeit batteries that can explode, and, perhaps the most rapidly growing threat, counterfeit medicines, which pose obvious public health risks.
Through the diligent work of American and Thai investigators, customs officials, and prosecutors, we are working to reduce the risks from counterfeit pharmaceuticals. An excellent example of this coordinated international approach arose recently in the investigation of Randy Gonzales.
According to the charges pending against him, beginning in July 2005, Gonzales advertised and sold counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs over the Internet. He would ship large quantities of loose counterfeit pills, along with bottles and counterfeit labels, in packages of general merchandise from China to a store in Houston, Texas. There, his co-conspirators placed the pills in bottles, and attached the counterfeit labels.
Through e-mail, Gonzales told undercover agents that the counterfeit pills would be available for purchase in wholesale quantities at the store. During the year-long investigation, agents made several undercover purchases of fake drugs, and ultimately they seized more than 75,000 counterfeit pills with an estimated value of more than $776,000.
Royal Thai Police officers arrested Gonzales in March 2007, and he was extradited to the United States earlier this year to face charges. In this case, U.S. and Thai law enforcement authorities worked together to disrupt the international trade in bogus pharmaceuticals. This type of coordination will continue to be critical to our efforts to stop the spread of counterfeit and pirated goods.
Although Gonzales and his associates worked to bring fake drugs into the United States, we know that those pills just as easily could have been bound for patients in Bangkok. Every day, counterfeit and pirated goods of every description are produced and shipped around the globe. Here again, when criminals go global, we have to go global too.
To help do that, the Department of Justice organized a week-long conference here in Bangkok last October, with the help of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and others. High-level police, customs officials and prosecutors from 14 countries attended, to establish an Intellectual Property Crimes Enforcement Network that could increase cooperation on these cases.
That network serves two main functions. First, it operates as a forum to exchange successful investigation and prosecution strategies to combat this type of crime. It helps us to compare notes and figure out what works and what doesn?t. And second, it strengthens communication channels to promote joint prosecutions of the most serious offenders. Our goal is to build more multinational cases and to develop our contacts across the region.
A second conference is being planned for early next year, at which time we hope to have a lot of success stories to share and to build upon. This network is a valuable model, and we're hopeful we can apply a similar strategy in fighting international organized crime and other threats as well.
Human trafficking and sex tourism
The last topic I want to talk about is the fight against the appalling practice of human trafficking. This modern-day slavery goes on in every part of the globe, as traffickers, hidden from the eyes of the law, prey upon the vulnerable, compelling them to work or perform sex acts against their will. The United States is no more immune from this crime than any other country.
Over the past seven years, the Department of Justice has convicted more traffickers than ever before. In doing so, we have helped more than 1300 victims from more than eighty countries.
We have convicted traffickers who coerced young West African girls into domestic service in homes.
We have convicted traffickers who used false promises, threats, and physical violence to trick and force young women from China, Mexico, the United States, and Thailand into prostitution. And we have convicted traffickers who have used combinations of threats, force, and intimidation to compel victims from Vietnam and Thailand to toil in sweatshops.
We also recognize that any effective anti-trafficking program has to fight both supply and demand. These criminals are in it to make a profit. Only by reducing their market can we realistically reduce the trafficking. That is why our fight against child sex trafficking includes the prosecution of child sex tourism ? a shamefully lucrative industry that spans the globe. The United States and Thailand have a highly successful record of working together to target these offenders.
The case of Steven Erik Prowler is an excellent example of that cooperation. In May 2005, Prowler was arrested in Bangkok after the Royal Thai Police, acting on a tip, saw two young teenagers leaving his Bangkok apartment.
Following his arrest, Thai police and U.S. agents searched the apartment and found more than 100 photos of naked children. Police also recovered hand-written journals where Prowler described in graphic detail sexual acts he performed with children in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Mexico.
After serving a year in Thai prison on molestation charges, Prowler was deported to the United States to face charges in California. In February 2007, he pleaded guilty to sex tourism charges, and he is now serving a ten-year prison sentence in the United States.
We recognize that we have a responsibility when our citizens travel abroad to pursue this kind of criminal exploitation of children. Working closely with the Thai police and prosecutors, we have been able to capture and punish many criminals like Prowler, to the great benefit of both our countries.
Beyond prosecutions, we also have worked with law enforcement authorities here, throughout Asia, and around the world to protect victims? family members who are being threatened by traffickers and their associates.
We've worked together to locate witnesses who have testified against traffickers, and who have provided information that helped us catch traffickers in the U.S.
And non-governmental organizations around the world have helped us meet the humanitarian needs of trafficking victims and their families, and to reunite those families with the children they feared they might never see again. We are grateful to all those who have joined in the fight to eradicate human trafficking.
The cooperation between our two countries on these crimes, and all other law enforcement challenges, is the foundation upon which many of our other relationships are based. The preservation of the rule of law, and the certain and swift application of justice, are essential to the continuation of trade, security, and nearly every other feature that we cherish in our lives and our societies.
Without that protection, we would be at the mercy of anyone who thought it was in his interest to take advantage of the rest of us. Obviously, the particular success stories I have outlined today are only examples, but together they make a clear case, I hope, for the value, even the necessity, of our work together.
The United States and the Kingdom of Thailand have faced many challenges over the last 175 years and we face many today. Over that period, we have time and again demonstrated our unwavering commitment to working together to answer these challenges, and I am confident we will continue to do so.
On behalf of the United States, I thank you, and all the Thai people, for your hard work and for your friendship.
Thank you very much.