SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Attorney General Eric Holder today issued the following statement on the signing of a case-specific agreement with the Dominican Republic:
“In signing this important forfeited asset sharing agreement, Prosecutor General Radhaméz Jiménez Peña and I reaffirm our common values, as well as our ongoing commitment to the goals that the United States and the Dominican Republic share: protecting our citizens, strengthening our borders, improving public safety, reducing recidivism, preventing and combating gang- and drug-fueled crime and violence, and ensuring that criminals do not profit from illegal activity.
“In working to advance these priorities, there’s no question that the interests of our two nations are clearly – permanently – intertwined; and that, very often, our individual problems and concerns demand international solutions. That’s why this agreement represents such an encouraging step forward. But it is far more than an affirmation of our shared desire to increase cooperation and collaboration on one specific case. It is a promising sign of the direction that our work will take long into the future. And it is evidence of our collective commitment to fighting illegal activity by making certain that criminals do not benefit from, and will be required to forfeit, ill-gotten gains.
“Our nations can take great pride in this agreement. It relates to an estimated $37 million worth of criminal assets that are currently in the process of being recovered by U.S. and Dominican law enforcement authorities here in the Dominican Republic.
“These millions stem from the well-known case of the Benitez Brothers, who defrauded an estimated $80 million from the United States Medicare Program – which provides health-care benefits to many of America’s most vulnerable citizens, including seniors, widows, orphans, and individuals with disabilities.
“As a legal matter, these assets were forfeited by the United States District Court in Florida, which has jurisdiction over the crimes involved. But recovering these assets – and ensuring justice in this case – is something that the United States cannot do alone. The close collaboration and committed partnership of key Dominican authorities has been – and will continue to be – instrumental in this work.
“For more than two years, cooperation between American and Dominican officials on this case has been consistent, reliable, and wide-ranging. And I believe that our nations have set a new standard for effective collaboration. I’m particularly proud that this agreement shares 20 percent of all assets recovered from this case with the office of the Prosecutor General, who will put them to good use throughout the Dominican Republic – improving prison facilities, combating organized crime, and providing security for witnesses who are crucial to the successful prosecution of criminal cases.
“Today’s signing ceremony marks the fourth time in ten years that America’s government has recognized – through asset sharing – the remarkable forfeiture assistance that Dominican authorities have afforded to the United States. And, as we look to the future, I am confident that we’ll be able to build on this strong record of partnership, and that the scope of our collective efforts will only continue to grow.
“In fact, I am pleased to announce that our countries have entered into negotiations for a permanent agreement that will govern our asset sharing relationship in the future. I know that Prosecutor General Peña and I both look forward to a rapid conclusion of these negotiations, and to the timely adoption of such an agreement.
“In this work, I am proud to pledge my own best efforts. And on behalf of my colleagues across the Justice Department and the United States government – and, in particular, on behalf of President Obama – I want to thank the Dominican government for its dedication to the goals and responsibilities that we share, and to the progress that we will achieve together.”