Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG) Anti-Corruption Working Group

Opening Remarks by Bruce Ohr
Associate Deputy Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG) Anti-Corruption Working Group
October 20, 2015 Beijing, China

Vice Minister Zhang Ming, Vice Minister Liu Jianchao, Deputy Director General Cai Wei, and Director General Xu Hong, thank you for your warm welcome to China.

I congratulate you and my colleagues on the 10th anniversary of the Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG).  I’d like to begin by echoing the wise words of Vice Minister Zhang Ming on the importance of anti-corruption cooperation between the United States and China.

Corruption is one of the greatest evils a country has to face.  It undermines the ability of a state to govern.  It subverts the faith of the people in their government, and it destroys the rule of law.

Crime flourishes where officials are corrupt, and the social contract that binds society together ceases to exist.  Furthermore, corruption can spread like a virus across a country and across national borders.  Corrupt officials, when detected, flee their native jurisdictions and seek to enjoy their ill-gotten gains out of the reach of their home authorities.

Businesses in other countries quickly learn to pay bribes to get business deals in a corrupt country, and so the practice of corruption is exported around the world.

We therefore see that in many instances, corruption is not purely a domestic matter but part of the larger issue of transnational crime.  In our increasingly interdependent and inter-connected world, countries must work together if they are to have any hope of defeating transnational crime.

This simple realization by leaders in the United States and China led to the founding of the U.S.-China Anti-Corruption Working Group.  For 10 years now, law enforcement professionals from our two countries have labored together to fight the common menace of corruption.

It has not been a simple task.  The legal systems of the United States and China are very different, and the sharing of information and evidence between our agencies has often been slow and difficult.  There are many issues where we struggle to find common ground, such as finding the best way to return corruption fugitives to China.

We have overcome these difficulties to score some notable successes.  Notable examples include the prosecutions in the Kaiping Bank of China cases, which I was privileged to supervise and in which many of our colleagues here participated.  Those successes and ongoing cooperation continue to the present day, which we will be discussing at this year’s Anti-Corruption Working Group.  Throughout this process, our work has been immeasurably aided by the warm friendships and shared sense of professional dedication that has developed among the members of the Anti-Corruption Working Group.

So while my Chinese colleagues in the Anti-Corruption Working Group already understand this very well, I hope others also understand the depth and seriousness of the United States’ commitment to the fight against corruption.

We have fought many long and difficult battles against corruption in the United States.  Over the years our efforts have been overwhelmingly successful, but some of our officials still find the allure of illegal money to be strong and the battle continues today.

Internationally, the United States has long been a leader in anti-corruption efforts. We aggressively police the behavior of our own companies abroad through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and we seek to forfeit the proceeds of bribery that corrupt foreign leaders hide in the United States and return those funds to the people of their countries through our Kleptocracy Initiative.

We do all this in strict compliance with our laws, which protect the rights of defendants and place heavy burdens upon prosecutors and investigators before a defendant can be convicted of wrongdoing and their property forfeited.

Our message is simple: we do not condone the selling by an official of any country of his or her office for personal gain, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that that official and his or her ill-gotten gains do not find safe haven in the United States.

We have brought that same dedication and commitment to the joint U.S.-China fight against corruption.  We have made huge efforts and expended many resources to pursue alleged corrupt Chinese officials in the United States.  Our investigators and prosecutors have spent countless hours interviewing witnesses, collecting and analyzing documents, translating those documents into English, and traveling abroad in pursuit of evidence.

This expenditure of time and money is difficult to sustain, particularly in a time of limited law enforcement resources and many other competing priorities.  But we continue to do this, because the work of anti-corruption is so important, and because if we are going to take on these cases we have to do it the right way, with full respect for our laws and the laws and sovereignty of China and other countries.

While international partnership can multiply the effectiveness of national efforts, there are obviously challenges, as partners must respect each other’s laws and sovereignty.  Because evidentiary laws differ, we ask our partners to furnish evidence in a form that, while different from that which might be used in their own courts, is admissible in a U.S. court in order to build a case against that country’s fugitives in the United States.  If we do not get this evidence, we will be unable to proceed against that fugitive in our courts.

Similarly, we ask that our partners not send law enforcement officials to the United States in pursuit of fugitives without coordinating those visits ahead of time with U.S. authorities.  Such travel violates our law and is a breach of our sovereignty.

Discussing and resolving such issues in a candid and cooperative manner is the purpose of the Anti-Corruption Working Group.  Our success in overcoming obstacles has been demonstrated this past year by the increasing volume and efficiency of information exchange between the Ministry of Supervision and our agents and prosecutors.

I would like to thank Minister Liu Jianchao and Deputy Director General Cai Wei for their hard work and the hard work of all their subordinates for this success, and to hold this up as a model for our increasing cooperation going forward.  If both sides continue to support and sustain the work of the Anti-Corruption Working Group, China and the United States will ensure that corrupt officials have no place to hide, and our success will be an inspiration to people around the world who are increasingly willing to stand up and risk their lives for the cause of honest government and an end to corruption.

Thank you.