Remarks as prepared for delivery
First of all, on behalf of President Trump—and on behalf of the 115,000 men and women of the Department of Justice—I want to welcome you to the Robert F. Kennedy Main Justice Building.
I understand that you have just come from the White House and that you spent yesterday in Quantico with the FBI.
I want to welcome all of you: our partners who are here with the State Department, the FBI, the Coast Guard, the Marines, the Air Force, and of course JIATF leadership, Rear Admiral Keck, Colonel Groves, and Unit Chief Chianella.
And welcome to our allies from more than a dozen countries in the Western Hemisphere and Europe.
This Department of Justice values your partnership in the fight to keep deadly drugs out of our communities.
Under President Donald Trump, this Department has placed a special emphasis on building law enforcement relationships and partnerships in America and around the world.
We know all too well that drugs are killing record numbers of Americans—and almost all of them come from overseas.
The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump ordered me to focus on dismantling transnational criminal organizations. And every single day this Department has been faithful to that order.
Under President Trump, the Department of Justice has achieved historic results in the fight against international drug trafficking. These results benefit not only the American people—but the people of your countries, too.
Last summer, with the help of eight of our allies, we dismantled the largest darknet market in the world, AlphaBay. It operated for more than two years and was used to sell a host of illicit items, including deadly illegal drugs and firearms. At one time, more than 40,000 vendors offered contraband for sale, and drugs sold on the site have been linked to overdose deaths around the country. Now this site has been taken down.
In 2017 we tripled the number of fentanyl prosecutions at the federal level.
In 2017, the Coast Guard seized record numbers of drugs: about half a million pounds total, worth about $6.1 billion. The Coast Guard also helped us arrest more than 600 alleged drug traffickers.
Last October, for the first time we indicted Chinese nationals for trafficking synthetic drugs in the United States. Last week I announced our third case—a 43-count indictment against a drug trafficking organization based in Shanghai.
I also announced charges against a married couple who we believe were once the most prolific synthetic opioid, fentanyl traffickers on the darknet in North America. I also announced that we had worked with our partners in Canada to help them indict a man we believe was the third most prolific darknet synthetic opioid dealer in North America.
In 2017, Customs and Border Protection seized nearly twice as much cocaine at our borders as they seized just three years before.
Many of your governments and militaries have played a key role in these successes. There is no doubt in my mind that you have saved lives.
Last year you seized or interdicted a total of 316 metric tons of illegal drugs headed toward the United States, including more than 44,000 pounds in Panama, more than 37,000 pounds in Costa Rica, 31,000 in Guatemala, and more than 23,000 in Mexico.
You also reduced the estimated amount of cocaine trafficked successfully South of our border by 357 metric tons.
I want to commend you for these accomplishments and thank you.
But all of us in this room must recognize that there is a lot more work left to do.
And more than 2,300 metric tons of cocaine were delivered successfully last year South of our border.
And so we need to continue to strengthen our military and law enforcement cooperation with your countries and with allies around the world.
Let me make one thing clear: The only time criminals care about borders is when they hide behind them. We cannot allow safe zones for criminals any more than for terrorists. It cannot be that a criminal can carry out any number of crimes, and then walk across a border and return home safe.
That is why we must all do more to speed up mutual legal assistance requests. These are requests from your countries for records in the U.S. Our Office of International Assistance has reduced its backlog by the thousands. I have increased staffing significantly. In 2017 we provided assistance in about twice as many cases as we did in 2015. And the number of requests has only been rising.
I promised when I was appointed Attorney General that we were going to speed up our support for you -- and we have.
Our goal is to set a good example by being more prompt. I urge your countries to do the same. We need faster, more complete responses to inquiries from all countries. I challenge each of your countries to devote more resources to quickly and effectively reduce your backlog too.
We are dramatically stepping up our actions against the cartels, the traffickers, and the transnational criminal organizations—just like President Trump has ordered us to do. These violent outlaws, traffickers in death, corruptors of government, are enemies of peace, security, public health and prosperity. They are our enemies. We will fight them with the determination we apply to terrorists.
We will attack, dismantle, and defeat them in every area of their wicked enterprises.
While they run loose, the rule of law is diminished while they corruptly influence governments. They undermine the progress we all want for our countries.
As long as they pour out huge volumes of illegal drugs, there will be more addiction and death. And that is why I hope that our meetings today—and your meetings in Washington this week—will strengthen our relationships and help us perform at a higher level than ever before.