Cartagena, Colombia - On June 12 to 14, in Cartagena, prosecutors from Colombia, Mexico, and the United States came together for the second Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) Working Group.  The mission of the Working Group is to engage in specialized training and to develop joint strategies and best practices to dismantle the transnational criminal organizations that threaten the three nations.

During the Working Group, experienced prosecutors from the three nations benefited from trainings on international judicial cooperation and money laundering, and began developing a road map for the development or dissemination of best practices and effective strategies to dismantle these dangerous enterprises.  This effort is all the more critical given the increasing interconnectedness between Mexican cartels and Colombian drug trafficking organizations, which collaborate to improve their profits and ability to traffic narcotics, humans, weapons and other contraband into the United States, threatening its national security.

The TCO Working Group is a direct outgrowth of Presidential Executive Order 13773 – Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking – which recognized the threat that transnational criminal organizations, including transnational drug cartels, pose to the national security of the United States.  In the Executive Order, President Trump prioritized the need to increase cooperation and information sharing with foreign counterparts, and to enhance their operational capabilities via increased security sector assistance, all with the goal of dismantling TCO.  Since the 2017 Executive Order was issued, the President has continually reiterated the need to immediately attack the ability of these organizations to traffic narcotics and other criminality into the United States.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT), which is housed under the Department’s Criminal Division, seized on the momentum from the Dec. 6 to 7, 2017 “Trilateral Summit Against Transnational Organized Crime,” to spearhead the TCO Working Group.  The Attorneys General from the United States, Mexico and Colombia converged at the Trilateral Summit to strengthen their commitment to international judicial cooperation and to reinforce joint strategies to dismantle transnational organized crime, such as narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and public corruption.  Via a Joint Declaration, the three Attorneys General called on their respective institutions to increase the exchange of best practices to effectively dismantle TCO and to develop joint capacity building and training programs for those charged with investigating and prosecuting TCO.  With this clear mandate, OPDAT Colombia and OPDAT Mexico sponsored the first TCO Working Group in August 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Participating in the TCO Working Group meeting was U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida; representatives of the Fiscalía General de la Nación (FGN) of Colombia including Claudia Carrasquilla, head of the National Organized Crime Unit and Ricardo Carriazo, head of the National Drug Trafficking Unit of FGN; representatives of the Fiscalía General de la República (FGR) of Mexico, OPDAT Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) in Colombia and México and Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the federal districts of Arizona, Southern District of California, Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, District of New Jersey, District of New Mexico, Eastern District of Texas, Southern District of Texas, Western District of Texas and District of Utah; trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and representatives from the Criminal Division’s International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program (ICITAP); the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Colombian National Police.

“Global cooperation is the key to mitigating threats to our national security and thwarting borderless crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “The OPDAT Program continues to provide us, and our international partners, with the vital tools, information, and resolve necessary to defeat criminals, wherever they operate.”

"We held the trilateral meeting between the U.S., Colombian and Mexican prosecutors, where we've discussed issues of absolute importance for the dismantling of transnational criminal organizations that affect the national security of our countries,” said Ricardo Carriazo, Director of the Special Unit against Drug Trafficking for the Colombian Attorney General’s Office.  “The results in this exchange of experiences and good practices will be seen soon in the development of international judicial operations. "

OPDAT spearheads and organizes this critical event in coordination with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).