G8 discuss co-operation on organised crime, piracy

By Daniel Flynn and Valentina Consiglio

INTERIOR ministers from G8 industrialised nations discussed closer co-operation in fighting organised crime and greater aid to African states to tackle drug trafficking cartels and rising maritime piracy.
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, hosting the two-day meeting which concludes today, said delegates proposed greater data sharing on criminal networks and tougher measures to confiscate the assets of mafia groups.

On piracy, which has become a major international concern off the eastern coast of Africa, ministers proposed closer police cooperation to pursue those responsible and the establishment of international tribunals to hear the crimes.

"Crime has become more and more international and that requires an international response to protect our citizens," French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said.

She cited the global flows of drugs into Europe controlled by international cartels - cocaine from Latin America, cannabis from Africa and heroin from Afghanistan.

In recent years, West Africa has become of the main transit routes for drugs from Latin America entering Europe.

France called on other G8 countries to step up aid - from funding to training police and judges - to help poor, unstable African states being swamped by narcotics syndicates. The European Union has already approved similar measures.

"For these African nations, this phenomenon has dramatic consequences. Drugs lead to corruption, to bad governance, to regions where terrorism can flourish," she said.

Several G8 countries are already taking part in EU and NATO naval taskforces combating piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping routes off the coast of Somalia, where the number of vessels hijacked by pirates has risen sharply in recent months.

But experts say captured pirates present a judicial headache: Should they be tried in Western countries which lack jurisdiction and where the accused can claim asylum, or in Somalia where they may not receive a fair trial?

"There is increasingly agreement on our proposal to establish international tribunals to combat this," Italy's Mr Maroni said.

France, which holds some 15 Somali pirates caught during or after attacks on French crews, said police efforts needed to be directed at the root of the problem.

"The pirates are just former fishermen but their masters are people who are often quite important figures in the economic life of (nearby) countries," Ms Alliot-Marie said. "We want to work together to catch the real masterminds and their intermediates."

In a session on cybercrime, ministers agreed on a G8 blacklist of internet sites displaying child pornography, to be compiled by Interpol.

They also discussed tackling online identity theft and monitoring the use of social networking by criminal and terrorist groups.