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Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a point while speaking during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington. (Photo: AP/Alex Brandon)

The interconnected world has broken down borders for economics—and crime, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech Monday, urging countries to share more crime-solving know-how and information. 

More forensic evidence and investigatory cooperation must be shared, the attorney general told a group of international prosecutors and law enforcement officials at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery hosted in Washington D.C.

“As a prosecutor for 14 years, I know firsthand that the best evidence is often simple things like bank records, airplane records, and telephone records,” said Sessions. “If they’re not properly shared between nations, then, in many cases, justice cannot be done. It is essential that we continue to improve that kind of sharing. That’s why we must all do more to expedite mutual legal assistance requests.”

The U.S. is doing its part, Sessions added. The Justice Department has increased staffing levels at its Office of International Affairs—and also created two new units just for reviewing and fulfilling requests from other nations, he told the crowd. Together, the two actions have reduced a backlog of cases by thousands, despite an increase in requests of 16 percent in 2016.

Sessions pointed to several examples of international cooperation—and some perceived failings—in his short address to the crowd:

  • The AlphaBay darknet market was dismantled this year, and the accused creator of the Kelihos botnet login theft network was arrested. Both of these advances were made possible through cooperation with other nations, Sessions said.
  • The 1MDB wealth fund, created by the Malaysian government to promote long-term development in the Asian nation, was exposed as “kleptocracy at its worst” after U.S. authorities seized more than $1 billion that had been laundered and misappropriated in Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and the U.S.
  • The Kate Steinle killing was cited by Sessions. The gunman, Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, is a Mexican by birth who had illegally immigrated to the U.S. and shot and killed the 32-year-old Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015. Garcia Zarate, who had multiple felony convictions and was deported from the U.S. at least five times, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges last week. He was convicted on weapons possession, after his defense attorneys argued he had accidentally shot Steinle with a gun he had found near where he slept (the gun was initially stolen days earlier from the personal vehicle of a Bureau of Land Management ranger). Sessions said “Steinle would be alive today” if the city had cooperated with immigration enforcement.

“The United States has too often been a victim, and we intend to fight these crimes vigorously,” he told the other leaders.

Of particular interest is the refusal of certain countries to extradite individuals back in the U.S., he said. 

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