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US Prosecutor Praises International Cooperation

A federal prosecutor in New York City says increasing cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other countries is helping U.S. authorities combat international crime. Victoria Cavaliere has more from VOA's New York Bureau.

The U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of New York is one of the most influential U.S. federal districts, holding jurisdiction over Manhattan, the Bronx and several surrounding counties.

Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, says the court handles some of the country's heaviest caseload of terrorism, narcotics trafficking and insider trading litigation.

Garcia stressed that international cooperation has been a key factor in the prosecutions.

"More recently, we created a unit called International Narcotics. This really is a success story. It was formed in 2002, with the idea being that we would work together with our foreign counterparts, cooperatively, to bring to justice the major narcotics traffickers. We've extradited Mexican cartel members, FARC(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) members from Colombia. We've had extraditions from Thailand, Romania, Belize. The extradition success rate is not a coincidence. These cases, like the terrorism cases, rely on international cooperation," he said.

Garcia says the Southern District has also dealt with corruption and fraud cases involving the United Nations, including the oil-for-food scandal. Federal prosecutors have indicted more than a dozen people for taking bribes and kickbacks from the now defunct humanitarian program.

Garcia said at least two fugitives are still being sought abroad. "Any case where you have a fugitive in a foreign country, we have to work through whatever extradition treaties we have. Through the rules that govern extradition treaties, which include mutuality, meaning it has to be a crime in the country we are requesting the extradition from. Ultimately, it's a sovereignty issue," he said.

The court has also made several notable prosecutions of human traffickers. In 2006, 40 people were indicted on charges of running brothels staffed by more than 70 Korean sex slaves. Investigators said the suspects smuggled the Korean women through Canada and Mexico. "You have organized crime syndicates compromising border security, bringing people in, putting them in terrible danger, and then trafficking them in the United States. A terrible problem and a very, very difficult problem to get at," he said.

This month, Garcia and U.S. Justice Department officials announced they had charged alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on four counts of terrorism for seeking to sell millions of dollars of weapons to Colombia's FARC rebels.

Garcia would not comment on the efforts to have Bout extradited from Thailand.