Advancement of technology has been identified as a major stumbling block against the war on emerging and trans-national organised crime in Kenya and the region.
Prosecutors at the ongoing International Association of Prosecutors conference in Mombasa said technological advancement has provided criminals with an avenue to hide when and after committing economic crimes.
Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji while opening the conference said cryptocurrencies have increased the risk of criminal activities due to the anonymity that it provides to its users.
“We are experiencing a complex and rapidly evolving crime landscape as criminal organisations are no longer restricted by territories or borders. Indeed, with the development of technological tools such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies, perpetrators are able to carry out transnational organised crimes with minimal risks of detection,” said Mr Haji.
These crimes, he said, undermine state authority and sovereignty, threaten national security and the rule of law and fuel corruption.
He said that the conference presented a chance to fully examine some of the most pressing emerging and transnational crimes such as environmental crimes, money laundering, terrorism, corruption and cyber-crimes that affect respective countries.
“It is thus essential for law enforcement agencies and prosecution services to embrace this new reality in order to effectively combat these complex and serious crimes,” he said.
The DPP said that money laundering plays a significant role in concealing the place of origin of criminally obtained funds so that they appear legitimate, thus exacerbating corruption, economic and related crimes.
Prosecutors from Africa and Europe have gathered in Mombasa to exchange knowledge on how to combat emerging crimes and the transnational organised crime that has become a global concern.
Under the theme Effective Mechanisms for Responding to Emerging Crimes and Trans-national Organised Crimes in Africa, the two-day conference will also provide the prosecutors with an opportunity to meet with criminal justice experts to share best practices in strengthening prosecutorial services to achieve excellence “in a progressively complex criminal justice environment”.
“In this regard, I hope we can examine potential avenues for the harmonisation of legislation, policies, and frameworks towards enhanced regional and international cooperation in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of emerging and transnational crimes,” said Mr Haji.
Tanzanian’s DPP Sylvester Mwakitalu said criminal syndicates have exploited the operational gaps and incoherent working relationships among countries to continue with their illegal activities.
Mr Mwakitalu however said the desire to achieve common interest in combating transnational organised crime pushed the regional countries to form the East African Association of Prosecutors (EIP).
“The main objective of the EIP is to enhance cooperation in the handling of cross border crimes, provision of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters including the arrest and repatriation of criminals,” he said.
The corporation, he noted, has assisted in collection of evidence and sharing the same with member countries to help in prosecuting the criminals involved. These, he said included trafficking in persons, smuggling of immigrants, and illegal drug trafficking
He noted that EIP has also helped in bringing the countries together in pursuit of peace and security and assisting one another in ending impunity of all kinds.
“We are also aiming at exchanging information on a national mechanism for combating criminal activities. We have been instrumental in helping one another to ensure that criminals do not benefit from their ill-gotten wealth by tracing and recovering their assets,” he said.
Mauritius DPP, Satyajit Boollel said lack of cooperation, limited resources and lack of transparency has hampered the war against trans-national organised crime.
“The real culprits hide behind a series of layers of the security system making them difficult to reach. The lack of transparency also makes it hard to find the real beneficiaries of these criminal acts,” he said.
Mr Boollel also asked the prosecutors to invest in expertise to help them unmask the massive scam that happens behind the technological advancement tools such as crypto currencies and also to crack the whip on cybercrime syndicate.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatan who gave the keynote address noted that there is need for transformation in the prosecution’s department to effectively combat the emerging crime and transnational organised crime.
“These criminal acts are evolving and that is why we need to be ahead of the game. This conference has come at the right time because sharing experience and lessons from our various jurisdictions will give us a better and common strategy to stay ahead of the game.
Mr Yatani said most countries have paid a heavy price due to the trans-national organised crime that has affected both the political and economic sectors.
He said terrorism distorts resources and denies the public opportunity to get better services hence there is a need to combat the vice through waging war on trans-national organised crime that funds terrorism.
“Trans-national criminal networks pose a direct threat to the economy and undermine our legal system and the rule of law to a greater extent,” he said
The CS said that while globalization has enhanced the regional and international interconnectivity and independence, the same has also enhanced the prevalence of cross border criminal enterprises and activities that has in turn undermined economies.
“Unless we develop strategies to tackle the merging and trans-national crime, we are likely to see this figure rise at the expense of social and economic development,” he said.