organized crime






One of the Law Blog’s favorite historical characters is Mo Berg. In addition to being a Columbia-trained lawyer and a longtime backup catcher for the Boston Red Sox, Berg was a spy in the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. Above all else, Berg, whose biographer called him the brainiest guy in baseball, loved international intrigue.

If Berg were alive today, we think he’d be licking his chops over AG Michael Mukasey’s announcement that he’s reviving a multiagency group, first established in the Johnson administration, to combat the rise of international organized crime. According to this story in the L.A. Times, Mukasey said that a new breed of international mobster is infiltrating strategic industries, providing logistical support to terrorists and becoming capable of “creating havoc in our economic infrastructure.”

According to the LAT, the Organized Crime Council, composed of senior officials from nine federal law enforcement agencies, had not met since the early 1990s, when it went dormant after a series of high-profile victories in the U.S.

“The challenge we face with the new breed of organized criminals is quite different from the one we faced a generation or two ago,” Mukasey said, addressing the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington. “They are more sophisticated, they are richer, they have greater influence over government and political institutions worldwide, and they are savvier about using the latest technology, first to perpetrate and then cover up their crimes. Mukasey said international organized crime groups controlled “significant positions” in global energy and strategic materials and were expanding holdings in the U.S. materials sector.

John Dowd, a Washington lawyer and former organized crime chief in the DOJ, said: “It takes concentrated specialized talent, not unlike our anti-terrorist effort. I am delighted to see Michael Mukasey revive it. I don’t know why it ebbs and flows. To me, it always has to be a priority.”

Mukasey cited a number of recent international organized crime arrests, including the arrest last month of reputed arms trafficker Victor Bout (noted here by the Law Blog) on suspicion of conspiring to sell weapons to terrorists in Colombia; and the case of reputed Russian organized crime kingpin Semyon Mogilevich, known as “the Brainy Don,” suspected of corrupting the natural gas industry in the former Soviet Union.