G8 ministers target global crime in Rome meeting

Rome - Justice and home affairs ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) on Saturday adopted a series of proposals aimed at combating organized crime, child pornography, human trafficking, terrorism, piracy and internet fraud. A "critical tool" in fighting criminal syndicates is the confiscation of their financial and other material assets, participants said in a final declaration at the end of their two-day meeting in Rome.

Such strategies were pioneered by leading Italian anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, the final declaration said.

The document paid homage to Falcone who was killed in a 1992 Cosa Nostra bomb attack near the Sicilian capital, Palermo.

"We are proud that the Italian model was approved," Italian Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said at the concluding news conference.

Recent United Nations studies suggest that the current global economic crisis provides criminal syndicates opportunities to flourish by investing in legitimate business operations money obtained through drug dealing and arms smuggling.

The ministers' declaration is set to be presented at the main leaders' summit of the G8 - the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia - scheduled to take place from July 8-10 in L'Aquila, Italy.

Other participants at the two-day meeting in Rome, which was held under strict security at a police training school, included international security officials from the European Union, Interpol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Rome meeting also produced a separate declaration devoted to fighting the "heinous crime" of child pornography, especially tightening controls on the exchange of such material on the internet.

Reaffirming their commitment to the "G8 Wanted Child Sex Offenders" website, participants said consideration would be given to also create a "blacklist" of internet sites containing child pornography.

Other forms of "cyber-crime," including "identity theft" as practiced by criminals infiltrating social networking sites such as Facebook, were also mentioned.

"To cope with such threats, we believe that it is essential to improve collaboration between (internet) service providers and law enforcement to track online activity during an investigation," the declaration said.

Also linked to technological developments such as the internet is terrorism which is "still one of the most serious threats to international security," the G8 ministers said.

"Only recently we have shut down two Jihadist internet sites that were promoting terrorism" as a means of spreading Islamist ideas, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told the news conference.

Greater participation from ordinary citizens was needed to help render cities safer from the threat of terrorist attacks, Maroni said.

"We discussed the possibility of extending to other member nations a model of citizen-participation currently in use in Japan," he said.

Ministers also expressed concern that the economic crisis will prompt an increase in migration from poorer nations to richer nations, allowing human traffickers to exploit the situation.

Italy's government, which currently holds the G8 presidency, has made the fight against illegal immigration one if its top priorities, introducing controversial measures such as the deportation of migrants intercepted in international waters.

Maroni said there was consensus that both the fighting of illegal immigration and an increase of measures to improve the integration of legal migrants were priorities.

On Friday several dozen pro-immigration and anti-globalization demonstrators staged protests in Rome against the G8 meeting, including an attempt to occupy the Basilica of St Mary Major church. Police managed to prevent the occupation.

Activists plan a march through the streets of the Italian capital on Saturday afternoon.