(This is the first of a two-part series by Michelle Estlund, principal at Estlund Law, in Miami, on the assistance that the multinational organization known as Interpol provides in combating financial crime, apprehending perpetrators and recovering stolen assets. Part I provides insight into the work of Interpol and the purpose of its multicolored Notices. Part II, which will run in the next edition of ACFCS Financial Crime 360, will explain how the assistance of Interpol in financial crime cases may be obtained. Ms. Estlund, who devotes her unique practice to Interpol matters and criminal defense, represents persons who are subjects of Interpol Red Notices and advises attorneys on Interpol-related issues. Her blog is found at at www.rednoticelawjournal.com.)
Despite the considerable resources poured into fighting financial crime, there is no visible sign of abatement or even reduction. When a financial crime is discovered, the financial crime specialist usually shifts focus from prevention to apprehension and recovery.
Most financial crime victims believe that in order to recover their losses, cooperating with government investigators and prosecutors is the sole approach available. However, one resource that historically has been underutilized, which may yield surprisingly good results in criminal investigations and prosecutions, is Interpol, the international law enforcement information-sharing organization based in Lyon, France. While its use has grown significantly over the past few years, most people have no idea what it is, what it does or why they should care.
The function of Interpol
The International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, has 190 participating member countries, each of which has a National Central Bureau (NCB) that acts as a liaison with Interpol.
The primary function of Interpol is to facilitate the exchange of information between the law enforcement agencies of member countries and to provide extrajudicial international law enforcement cooperation. Interpol is governed by its own rules and by other documents and conventions. Its stated goals are:
• To ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance among all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws in the different countries and in the spirit of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,”
• To establish and develop all institutions likely to contribute effectively to the prevention and suppression of crime.
To join Interpol a country must pledge to uphold its laws and the rules and governing texts of Interpol, and pay the applicable dues. Interpol’s member countries are listed at http://www.Interpol.int/Membercountries/World.
How Interpol aids crime victims
If the person accused of a financial crime leaves the country where the crime is alleged to have occurred, prosecution becomes more difficult. While a subject may be detained and extradited without the involvement of Interpol, the likelihood of apprehension and extradition increases with Interpol’s help.
Interpol aids victims in member countries by accepting, circulating, and sometimes publishing information about persons who are fugitives for various reasons. The information Interpol publishes is in the form of “Notices.” The color that Interpol assigns to a Notice indicates its purpose:
• Red: To seek the arrest or provisional arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition.
• Yellow: To help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify persons who are unable to identify themselves.
• Blue: To collect information about a person’s identity or activities pertinent to a crime.
• Black: To seek information on unidentified bodies.
• Green: To provide warnings and intelligence about persons who have committed criminal offenses and are likely to commit them in other countries.
• Orange: To warn of an event, a person, an object or a process representing a serious and imminent threat to public safety
• Purple: To provide information on modi operandi, procedures, objects, devices and concealment methods of criminals.
• Interpol-United Nations Security Council Special Notice: issued for individuals and entities subject to UN sanctions.
Red Notices are a detention, extradition tool
Red Notices are most likely to be helpful to financial crime victims because they allow criminal suspects and witnesses to be detained for purposes of extradition. Blue Notices allow suspects and witnesses to be tracked for investigative purposes.
The manner of tracking the subjects of Red and Blue Notices is similar in that member countries can access Interpol’s databases to check a person’s status any time he or she has contact with law enforcement officials. That contact may occur, for example, when immigration officials check the passenger manifest of an incoming flight at an airport or when a person is detained by police for an unrelated crime.
When a person’s name matches the information in Interpol’s databases, the subject’s fingerprints, photograph and personal information may be used to verify if he or she is the subject of the Notice. If so, the local authorities are normally notified. The difference between the treatment of the subject of a Red and a Blue Notice is that local law enforcement officials may monitor a Blue Notice subject’s activities during his stay in their country, while they are likely to detain and possibly extradite a Red Notice subject.
Once a Notice is circulated to Interpol’s member countries, the information is available to law enforcement and other government personnel at all points of entry and exit. This alerts officials to the movement and location of the subject. With Red Notices in particular, a subject either becomes immobilized or risks detention in any country to which he or she travels.
A Notice may also be published on Interpol’s website and on high-risk lists provided to financial institutions by law enforcement agencies in some countries. The Red Notices inhibit the ability of the subject to travel freely, maintain his or her livelihood, conduct transactions and, frequently, to lose the ability to establish a relationship at reputable financial institutions. Thus, the action of a nation’s NCB of requesting that Interpol issue a Red or Blue Notice has a great ripple effect.