Justice Department Announces Plan to Administer Grant Funding Opportunities for Fiscal Year 2024 to Strengthen Community Safety
Thank you for that kind introduction, Minister [Andrea] Orlando. Thank you, Deputy National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor [Giovanni] Russo, for your steady leadership in the fight against organized crime. And Commander General [Tullio] Del Sette, thank you for hosting this wonderful event at this beautiful and historic venue. It is a privilege to be here. I know that the Carabinieri, have been on the front lines of Italy’s decades-long fight against organized crime. You have given your all to this struggle, including many of your best and bravest. We still honor the loss and legacy of General Carlo Alberto Della Chiesa, who was murdered for his relentless pursuit of the Mafia throughout the 1970s. I am delighted to see so many of our Italian law enforcement partners in the audience, including members of the Carabinieri, the Italian National Police, and the Financial Police. Many prosecutors traveled from near and far to join us today, and I am grateful to you all for being here. I thank you all for joining me here as we celebrate our nations’ proud history of cooperation against organized crime, and as we reaffirm our determination to address the challenges that still lie ahead.
For more than 30 years, the United States and Italy have been staunch allies in the fight against organized crime. We have recognized its international dimensions, the utter lack of respect not just for human life but for man-made borders. And we have been at the forefront, indeed the model, of the kind of international law enforcement cooperation that is being called upon today to fight emerging foes. Our unique and forward thinking cooperation dates back to the early 1980s, when our nations worked together to investigate and prosecute a massive Mafia-run drug enterprise that spanned the ocean. Sicilian Mafiosi and Sicilian-American mobsters smuggled billions of dollars’ worth of drugs across international borders, laundering their proceeds through pizza parlors in the United States. In order to dismantle this transatlantic operation, authorities in the United States and Italy began working together with unprecedented coordination. By pooling our resources in a number of ways – from case strategy, to witness protection, to joint task forces – we deepened our shared commitment to stem the tide of organized crime and protect the public. And together, we succeeded in putting a stop to this nefarious scheme. Thanks to dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors like Louis Freeh – who would later direct the FBI – and Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, our governments together put hundreds of Mafiosi behind bars.
As you know, Judges Falcone and Borsellino both paid for their public service with their lives. Judge Falcone and his wife and three police bodyguards were brutally killed by a roadside bomb outside of Palermo. Judge Borsellino, too, was murdered by a car bomb as he walked to his mother’s door, less than two months after Judge Falcone’s death. In the aftermath of these vicious attacks, the U.S. Department of Justice joined in the investigation to unmask the assassins. Working hand-in-hand with Italian experts, the FBI helped to investigate the crime site, analyzing the bomb signatures and matching DNA left on cigarette butts recovered at the bomb site to one of the suspects. We were honored to work with you, because our brothers in the struggle had also fought for us, and your loss was our loss.
Today, the threat of organized crime has evolved. Sophisticated cross-border schemes – involving narcotics, fraud, cybercrime, trafficking, and many other crimes – link together not just criminals from the United States and Italy, but also organized crime rings in South America, Central Europe, Africa, and Asia; and we also have seen in some areas the rise of a crime-terror nexus. The proliferation of computer networks and social media has given syndicates the ability to collaborate more easily, and it has created entirely new forms of organized crime, like organized computer intrusions and identity theft. And in places where they wield powerful and dangerous influence, organized crime syndicates continue to undermine democratic governments by colluding with corrupt politicians. That is why in 2011, President Obama announced a new Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, in recognition that such crime “poses a significant and growing threat to national and international security, with dire implications for public safety, public health, democratic institutions and economic stability across the globe.” One of the key pillars of our Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime is international cooperation and partnerships – and I am proud to say that in this regard we could ask for no better partner than Italy. The Justice Department’s Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration, along with Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, coordinate with their counterparts here in Italy on a daily basis to share information on fast-moving, transnational crime investigations, including anti-narcotics and anti-money laundering operations. And law enforcement officials in both nations continue to share resources and strategy in investigating cross-border organized crime. Moreover, Italy’s leadership in fighting organized crime has been felt worldwide: in bringing forward the Palermo Convention – the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime – Italy has helped to create a transnational framework for law enforcement to confront a transnational threat.
I have had the privilege to witness our cooperation firsthand. In 2014, when I was serving as the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, the Department of Justice coordinated with Italian law enforcement partners to arrest and charge members of the Gambino organized crime family in New York and members of the ‘Ndrangheta, one of Italy’s most powerful and most dangerous organized crime syndicates. They plotted to use legitimate shipping businesses as cover to move narcotics between the United States and Italy. But U.S. and Italian law enforcement partners did what we do best; we collaborated intensely, sharing evidence and cooperating on undercover operations, and eventually arresting more than twenty conspirators. Our joint efforts ensured that ‘Ndrangheta would not find a foothold in New York. And this type of collaboration has become the norm in our partnership with Italian law enforcement, not the exception. Just last year, our nations collaborated to intercept a drug trafficking operation whose tentacles reached from Italy to Queens, New York and Costa Rica. Moreover, the techniques that our organized crime investigators and prosecutors pioneered – attacking and dismantling an entire criminal enterprise – have provided the model we now use to attack terrorist networks and other forms of criminality. For all the work we have done together as partners and as friends, on these and so many matters large and small, it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people and as the Attorney General of the United States, to say thank you. We could not do this work without you. Of course, we still have a long way to go to extinguish the threat of organized crime. It continues to tear at the fabric of our societies. It steals from the public and abuses the vulnerable. It brandishes fear as a weapon against innocent people. It mercilessly takes human lives for craven ends. But we have made tremendous progress together – and as I look around this room at so many dedicated leaders and law enforcement officers, I am not just hopeful, but confident that we will build on the work that devoted public servants like Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino began more than 30 years ago.
That work continues to inspire us. In May of 2014, I had the honor of leading a delegation from the Justice Department to the Falcone memorial in Palermo. the memorial and the foundation do such honor to Judge Falcone’s memory and his courage. During the Sicilian Mafia investigation, he knew of the deadly threats against him, but he never faltered. He said, “Men pass through. Ideas remain, but they walk on the legs of other men.” Today, the ideas that animated Judges Falcone and Borsellino walk on in the work that we carry on together. Today, it is our responsibility to ensure that the scourge of organized crime will not be tolerated by law enforcement anywhere. And today, it is our responsibility – and great privilege – to continue the proud history of cooperation between our two nations.
I want you to know that the United States remains committed to standing alongside Italy in the fight against organized crime. We will continue to work side by side with our law enforcement partners here. We will continue to build on our historic friendship. And we will continue the hard work of honoring the values Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino defended with their lives.
Thank you for your warm hospitality and your presence here today. And thank you for your tireless work and dedication.