WASHINGTON -- Organized crime has emerged as a top global threat as mobsters conspire worldwide to prey on everything from energy markets to victims of identity theft, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Wednesday.
No longer just the stuff of mafia lore, organized crime groups are particularly dangerous when they hook up with terrorists to turn a profit, Mukasey said in announcing a new government focus on mobsters.
"At some point, when people who want to make money meet other people who are motivated by ideology and want to buy something, and they spot an opportunity for profit ... then there is a coincidence of interest," Mukasey told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"And the way you fight is, initially, with intelligence gathering (that) you then use to frustrate it or prosecute it as may be appropriate," Mukasey said.
Also alarming is growing evidence of what Mukasey described as mobsters infiltrating and corrupting global gas and energy markets - potentially destabilizing parts of the U.S. economy. He cited cases of organized criminals increasingly smuggling immigrants and contraband - such as counterfeit money and drugs - into the United States.
Mukasey pointed to several recent cases as evidence of the surge in international global crime, including that of Viktor Bout. The so-called Merchant of Death was charged in March with plotting to sell missiles and rocket launchers to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a rebel group known as the FARC that has been designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
Mukasey and other law enforcement officials said they could not discuss the breadth of the classified threat from global mobsters.
Earlier this year, Mukasey convened the first meeting of the U.S. Organized Crime Council since 1993. The council oversees Justice Department policy on organized crime.
"The United States faces a new and more modern threat, from international organized crime," Mukasey said. "We can't ignore criminal syndicates in other countries on the naive assumption that they are a danger only in their homeland, whether it is located in Eurasia, Africa, or anywhere else."