The Office of International Affairs (OIA) forms part of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), and is responsible for coordinating international criminal law enforcement. The work of the OIA includes extraditing and removing fugitives, gathering international evidence, providing legal advice to DOJ leadership and prosecutors, and negotiating and implementing treaties.
Extradition and removal of fugitives
OIA works with domestic and foreign partners to extradite or lawfully remove criminals sought for prosecution in the United States.
International assistance and evidence gathering
With its vast network of international relationships and treaties, the OIA aids criminal investigations by obtaining transnational evidence. The OIA also assists in foreign partner investigations by providing them with U.S. evidence.
Legal advice to DOJ leadership & prosecutors
OIA provides legal and strategic guidance to DOJ leadership with respect to challenges in international criminal law enforcement. OIA attorneys also advise federal and state prosecutors regarding complex legal issues that arise in international cases.
International relations and treaty matters
OIA attorneys represent the U.S. government’s interests in the formulation of global law enforcement strategies. OIA also establishes relationships with foreign counterparts necessary to effectively fulfil U.S. treaty obligations and support criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Recent international criminal cases in which the OIA provided assistance
Eight arrested in Africa-based cybercrime and Business Email Compromise conspiracy
‘Operation Keyword Warrior’ was recently coordinated by United States and international law enforcement to disrupt online frauds perpetrated from Africa. Eight individuals were arrested for their roles in a widespread, Africa-based cyber conspiracy that allegedly defrauded U.S. companies and citizens of approximately $15 million since 2012. Five individuals were arrested in the United States for their roles in the conspiracy. Three individuals were arrested in Ghana, including two Ghanaian citizens and one Nigerian citizen, and are pending extradition proceedings in the U.S.
“The defendants allegedly unleashed a barrage of international fraud schemes that targeted U.S. businesses and individuals, robbing them to the tune of approximately $15 million,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our international partners to aggressively disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that victimize our citizens and businesses.”
This investigation was led by the FBI, with assistance provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and a number of other agencies including INTERPOL, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Ghanaian Economic and Organised Crime Office.
74 arrested in coordinated international enforcement operation
Operation Wire Wire, a coordinated law enforcement effort led by the FBI and bringing together the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, was conducted over a six month period with an aim to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes.
BEC scammers perform targeted phishing attacks on a business to hack the network. The business’ clients are then emailed informing them of a change in banking details, which go to the scammer’s account. Individual victims can also be exploited by convincing them to make transfers to accounts controlled by criminals.
The operation resulted in 74 arrests in the United States and overseas, including 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
The Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance in the investigations.
Additionally, private sector partners and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Canadian law enforcement including the Toronto Police Service, the Mauritian Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Police, Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, Indonesian National Police Cyber Crimes Unit, and the Royal Malaysia Police provided significant assistance.
How exactly are international organised crime groups taken down?
It is evident that many of the investigations in which the Office of International Affairs provides assistance are led by the FBI. The FBI provides some insight into how it targets international organised crime, in collaboration with its international partners:
“The FBI uses a variety of laws, asset forfeiture statutes, and sophisticated investigative techniques in its domestic and international cases. The criminal and civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute are particularly suited to dismantle criminal organizations. Our organized crime investigations frequently use undercover operations, court-authorized electronic surveillance, informants and cooperating witnesses, and consensual monitoring. Many of these are conducted in concert with domestic and international police agencies. The FBI investigations focus on major international, national, and regional groups that control large segments of the illegal activities.”