THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY ROBERT GELBARD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS MATTERS; RICHARD NEWCOMBE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL; GEORGE WARD, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS; AND RICHARD CLARKE, SENIOR DIRECTOR, GLOBAL AND MULTINATIONAL AFFAIRS, NSC
The Warwick Hotel New York, New York
1:50 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, I wanted to put a little more focus on the President's initiative today on international organized crime and drug trafficking.
Thank you, Mr. Lake. A splendid job, as always. And we are delighted that you're here.
I've got really our team, our interagency team, who helped developed and will also now be in the position of implementing the President's executive order and other decisions, who are here, who can answer specific questions coming out of the speech.
And here, for those of you who don't know, Dick Clarke, Special Assistant to the President at the NSC; Rick Newcombe, who is the Director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control; Bob Gelbard, who is Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters; and George Ward, who is -- are you Assistant Secretary or Acting -- Acting Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of International Organizations at the State Department.
The list of things that have already occurred as of midnight last night are pretty impressive. And I -- however you guys want to -- maybe, Rick, it would be best to start with you just to talk about what's already been transmitted. Do you want to -- I'll have Dick start then. Thanks.
MR. CLARKE: Thanks.
As Tony said, the President's theme was reform and refocus. Briefly on reform, his message was that reform is not just about saving money; reform is about cutting waste and overhead, increasing the percentage of the money that we do spend that goes toward delivering services.
He said that we were the largest donor nation. We are. One dollar out of every three dollars the United Nations has received in the last three years has come from American taxpayers. And we are, nonetheless, at this point, also the largest debtor to the United Nations. As the President said, he's engaged in a dialogue with the Congress hoping to eliminate that.
On refocus, the President suggested that we refocus our attention on what, for lack of a better term, we're calling international organized crime. And that means terrorism, narcotics, alien smuggling, nuclear smuggling -- that entire nexus that the President has been talking about for the last several months as the forces of disintegration.
Why? Why, in an international forum, talk about crime? Because as he said in his Freedom House speech, the significance of borders is deteriorating. Problems that we face here at home have their origins overseas. The majority of organized crime cartels that the FBI is now dealing with in this country are headquartered overseas. American citizens are on a routine basis subject to violence and other criminal assaults that are of foreign origin. He has, therefore, proposed a series of initiatives as the result of a year-long study that has just concluded.
You have in your information package a sanitized, declassified version of a presidential directive, decision directive, that was the result of that year-long study. You also have an executive order that was issued last night.
The chief aspect that he referred to in his speech today from the series of decisions was a decision to go after their money, whether it's terrorists or narcotics cartels, people dealing in alien smuggling or nuclear smuggling, most of them are in it for the money. And two of the steps which he ordered today go after their money. The first is a money laundering initiative. The second is to go after the assets of such cartels. Beginning last night, with seizing and blocking assets owned by the Cali Cartel, which is the largest drug cartel in the world.
We're prepared here to go through with you all of these initiatives and to give you the names of the front companies that were blocked as off midnight last night, and to give you the names of the 80 individuals whose assets were blocked.
So let me turn it over first, I think, to Bob Gelbard to go through the money laundering and other aspects of the initiative.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: The themes that the President discussed today are, in fact, themes which have been increasingly of concern within the administration for quite sometime. If you look back on Secretary Christopher's speech at Harvard early this year on foreign policy, he touched on new issues of greater concern in terms of foreign policy, particularly stressing these four subjects of narcotics, crime, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He also emphasized these issues substantially in his speech to the General Assembly a few weeks ago.
The administration, the President see these issues as the very new and dramatic themes that in the post-Cold War environment are creating even more dramatic problems for nations, particularly because we see that borders have disappeared as it relates to the flows of money, the movement of capital, trade, and increasingly the movements of people.
So in this sense -- and Rick Newcombe will talk about the specifics of the President's executive order -- the President issued an executive order under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, aimed at undermining the major narcotics traffickers centered in Colombia, and announced an initiative on money laundering that really goes to the heart of the profits of these criminals.
The purpose of this is because of our deep concern about these problems, as I said, and what we want to do is use the tools of the U.S. government to meet the ever-more resourceful problems that have been presented by criminal organizations which are increasingly not national entities, but are linked up internationally with other groups and operate cross-border in the way they do their business.
Specifically, he signed the executive order utilizing the International Economic Emergency Powers Act which has been used most recently also against terrorists, and it's been used previously against individuals and entities in Haiti, Cuba and elsewhere -- in this case, to find that the activities of significant foreign narcotics traffickers centered in Colombia, including the so-called Cali Cartel, which account for approximately 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States and probably some 15 percent of the heroin entering the United States, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, the foreign policy, and the economy of the United States.
The order blocks their assets in the United States and in U.S. banks overseas. It includes these traffickers, their front companies, and individuals acting on their behalf, and prohibits U.S. persons, which includes individuals and entities, from both commercial and financial dealings with them.
What we expect on the basis of this action is that we will be able to uncover the extent of the worth of these companies and deny them the benefits of normal trade with the United States.
The Treasury Department, as is being passed out I believe, has published now a list of the targeted companies and individuals. We fully expect that over time we will be coming up with more both individuals and companies, and we expect to take similar actions against them.
What we want to do now is call on other nations to take similar actions. We think it's critical that the nations of Europe, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere also take actions to prevent their companies, their individuals from doing business with these Cali Cartel-related enterprises, so that they can be strangled and that they can be eliminated.
As Dick Clarke said, in terms of going after the money, which is something we see as one of the critical choke points to try to eliminate international crime, the President also has instructed the Secretaries of State and Treasury and the Attorney General to notify nations which are the most egregious in terms of their unwillingness up until now to adopt measures to eliminate the possibility of money laundering or other financial crimes in their countries, to enter into bilateral or multilateral organizations with them to get them to conform to international standards against money laundering.
These standards were adopted by the 28-member financial action task force, a group which is currently led by the United States. If after a reasonable period of time, these countries do not enter into agreements and implement laws against money laundering, the Secretaries of Treasury and State and the Attorney General will recommend to the President whether sanctions should be applied. And these sanctions could include the prohibition of electronic fund transfers and dollar clearing to financial institutions in the subject country. In other words, these would be very dramatic measures which would eliminate their ability to do business through the U.S. financial system.
Finally, the President has instructed the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, and the Attorney General to collect and analyze possible legislative tools and develop and international crime bill to be presented to the Congress in its next session so that we could better investigate, prosecute, and have better tools to go after international criminal organizations throughout the world.
We are also instructed by the President to try to develop other evidence which can be put together to go after other international criminal organizations as we are now doing and as we have now done against the Cali Cartel. This includes narcotics trafficking, but does go beyond narcotics trafficking, to look at international criminal organizations throughout the world.
Finally, the President called for in his speech the negotiation of an international declaration on citizen security and combatting international organized crime. What we hope to do through this mechanism is to jointly commit to undertake measures, national measures and multilateral measures, of specific actions against drug traffickers, terrorists, and other international criminals, and to provide mutual assistance and investigation and prosecution of their crimes.
Q Questions? You, the President, coupled drug trafficking and terrorism. Could you give us some examples of countries whose terrorists or organizations with terrorist activities are financed at least in part by drug trafficking?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We coupled them only in the sense that we are looking at these four major elements of criminal activity. But there are, indeed, cases where there are terrorist organizations which are engaged in drug trafficking, usually to finance their activities.
These have included and continue to include the FARC and ELN in Colombia, which continue to be engaged in drug trafficking. In the past in Colombia, the M-19. It includes -- there have been several instances of the PKK in Turkey, the LTT in Sri Lanka --
Q Anybody in the Middle East?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We think there have been other -- and Hezbullah.
Q Do you have any idea of how much money you're talking about that's going to be frozen in these companies, and also, which countries you're talking about that facilitate money laundering?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: At this point, we're looking at a range of countries in which we see a tremendous amount of activity related to money laundering and other kinds of financial crimes, as I say, due to their unwillingness or inability so far to implement the measures particularly of the 1988 Vienna Convention. That was 1988; it's seven years later. We think there has been by far enough time for these countries to have passed the legislation and implemented it.
The fact that only 54 percent of U.N. membership has even ratified the Vienna Convention seven years later is shocking. And I would estimate that only about a quarter of U.N. membership has even implemented it. But a number of countries in Asia, several countries in Latin America, Middle East and even Europe are places where we've seen flourishing money laundering.
What we intend to do over coming weeks and months now is to try to develop a list, notify these countries, offer to engage in talks, help them even to undertake the measures they need. But passing the laws is only a first step. We really feel they have to implement those laws, too.
This is something we have been pressing on now for several years. But as we have seen centers of financial crimes really become concentrated, we want to really try to emphasize the need for them to approve and implement these measures rapidly.
Q Which are the most egregious offenders? Give us a half dozen. Who are the --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I'd rather not right now.
Q Well, but I mean, how can you do this? You're making -- the President makes a big point of this in his speech, and you stand up here and say, no, but I can't tell you who they are. What kind of deal is that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: It's easy.
Q Seriously, that's --
MR. CLARKE: It's the kind of deal that gets results.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Yes. What we want to do right now is, now that we've put these countries on warning, we want to go to them quickly, which we expect to do within the next week or so, and approach them stressing the need for them to undertake these measures rapidly or face obvious consequences.
Q Well, how many are there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I think there's a large number potentially around the world. We want to concentrate on a number of countries first to show our seriousness. There are a number of countries in the Caribbean, in other parts of Latin America, where we're seeing money laundering flourish, in Southeast Asia. But let me leave it at that.
Q -- about the Russian cartels? Do you think that these moneymakers are going to be affected for Russian-based criminals --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We have strongly encouraged --
Q -- where does Russia stand in conforming to these international standards?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We have strongly encouraged Russia and some of the other new republics to undertake these measures. There is, we think, some serious recognition in Russia that they need to undertake some of these measures to strengthen their own financial system. And in fact, a U.S. delegation, which I'll be leading, will be in Russia in the next couple of weeks to discuss, among other things, the need for them to do this to strengthen their financial system. But this is something the Russian government clearly recognizes.
Q Of the 80 countries and individuals whose names you gave us, how many of them do you believe do have assets held in U.S. banks or U.S. --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Why don't I leave this now to Rick Newcombe, and we can back to any other questions after he's done.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: Thank you. I'd like to get to these questions about the specific individuals named, but if I could spend just two minutes putting this in context. Yesterday, President Clinton signed an executive order under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, entitled Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers. This order blocks all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction, which there is an interest of four principal figures in the Cali drug cartel. Those four individuals are named as principal individuals.
In addition, the order blocks the property and interest and property of foreign persons determined by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to play a significant role in international narcotics trafficking centered in Colombia, or to materially assist in or provide financial or technological support for or goods or services or other support of persons designated pursuant to the order. In addition, this order blocks all property and interest of property subject to U.S. jurisdiction of person owned or controlled by, or acting for, or on behalf of persons designated in that order.
Listed today are a total of 80 foreign entities and individuals designated pursuant to this order. This further prohibits any transaction or dealing by a United States person or within United States -- within the United States in property or interest of properties of the so-called specially designated narcotics traffickers and any transaction that evades or avoids or has the purpose of evading or avoiding this order is also prohibited.
Now, in terms of who these people are, first let me say there are four principal individuals, 33 business entities, 43 additional individuals. And to give you just some highlights of what contained in the list, these include drug store chains, holding companies, import-export firms, pharmaceutical and chemical companies, miscellaneous stores and shops located in a variety cities in Colombia, automobile dealerships, relatives who are on boards of directors of these companies, principal managers of the companies, and principal shareholders.
Q Do you have an estimate about how much money is involved, that is being frozen, if that's the word?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: No, not at this point. And the reason --
Q And how can you freeze the assets of someone who isn't a U.S. citizen?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the threat is from outside of the United States, so not only are transactions with these individuals prohibited, their assets are frozen both in the United States, foreign branches of U.S. banks, U.S. persons anywhere in the world are prohibited from having any transaction of any nature whatever. So supply houses cannot sell them goods. They cannot be serviced. Any U.S. connection is now severed, including especially their use of the dollar clearing system.
Q But you say you don't have an estimate of property and assets that might be --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: No. And the reason is in every one of these programs, dating back for the life of IEEPA, going into an asset freeze, the element of surprise is so important, by going and researching where they're assets might be and the amount of them would ruin the element of surprise. So the answer to that is no, we anticipate in coming days and coming weeks to have those answers and will be available. But it's the affect in the foreign designated location and the trade with the U.S. company that's the most significant.
Q -- assets by entities and individuals, these folks, the companies, are outside U.S. borders. It just occurs to me, there don't seem to be any in the U.S. Are you saying then that there are no Cali fronts in the United States?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: Well, there is -- the investigation continues. We continue to look for other connected companies. There are other names we are continuing to research. By definition, IEEPA is a threat from outside of the United States. They indeed may, and probably do, have assets in this country. Those will be blocked. Their relatives will no longer be able to receive payments in the United States. They can no longer travel to this country because of financial transaction with them would be prohibited.
Q It stands to reason that, with all the millions of dollars that they have, that in addition to having fronts in Colombia that they would have fronts in this country. And what can you do, or are you doing at all, with regard to people and entities that are in the United States, not in Colombia, that front for Cali?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: Well, the very first step is this list. All multinational companies will be checking this list for international trade transactions with any of these individuals or companies. U.S. banks will go through the various automated clearing mechanisms and so forth.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Let me just add to that. This is something that the Justice Department and our law enforcement agencies have been and continue to look into. And obviously what we intend to do, whether it's bank accounts that are held in the United States or front companies related to the Cali Cartel, we've either already taken action against them or are in the process of trying to do so.
Q Given that there are lots of nations that are doing money laundering, as you point out, do you have any reason to believe that there is any significant amount of money by these groups in U.S. banks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Well, that's obviously something we have been investigating and are continuing to try to investigate. There have been some accounts seized in the past. And we're continuing to look. They use a whole series of front companies and false names and go-betweens, so it becomes complicated to try to find it. But the fact that we have now been able to develop this extensive list of individuals and companies, I think, is a demonstration of the amount of information we've been able to accumulate in the last few months, in particular. And we intend to do more.
Q What has actually been frozen or seized at this point?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: What's been frozen are all assets that they may have subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Q Do you know --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: No, not at this point. We have no report to give you on that. However, the investigation continues. I think the critical point here is these individuals and these companies are cut off from the U.S. financial system.
Q Yes, we understand that, but what we're trying to get a sense of here is if they have anything here to be cut off.
MR. CLARKE: There are two bites to this proposal. One is blocking assets they may have in this country. But the bigger bite, and the much more serious bite is that no American firm can now deal with firms that they own overseas. Rick mentioned there is, for example, the largest pharmaceutical chain of stores in Colombia is on this list. What is the value, the stock market value, the resale value of that chain of stores now that that chain of stores can't buy aspirin made in the United States, can't buy even Microsoft software to run its computer systems.
We have just, by making it impossible for that chain of stores to do transactions in dollars or to do transactions with American companies great devalued the market value of that company to the criminals who owned it. The real bite is in cutting these people off from the United States. The lesser bite is in blocking what assets they may have in the United States.
Q How do you do that in a practical sense? I don't understand how you prevent good company A from doing business with marked company B. And certainly I don't understand how you stop somebody from going in and buying a toothbrush in the largest pharmaceutical chain in Cali, Colombia.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: It's not the toothbrush that we're after. What we're after is --
Q I know that, but what is your legal basis for prohibiting an American citizen or American company from dealing with some overseas company that as far as they know is ostensibly a drug firm? I mean, a pharmaceutical firm.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NEWCOMBE: Well, the legal basis is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act where the President has the authority to confer upon himself the ability to regulate financial transactions with so designated individuals. U.S. -- as a practical matter, this information goes out of Fedwire, chips, federal and state bank regulators, the securities industry, the automated clearing houses, U.S. banks with operations in Colombia, Colombian banks with operations in here, and all U.S. companies operating in Colombia. They will be on specific written notice of this today.
We have a specially designated national list of the U.S. Treasury Department where individuals of Libya, Iraq, terrorists, now designated narcotics traffickers and others, are checked before these trade transactions can occur.
Q What does the fact that you have to go -- that you're going after so many companies say about the U.S. relationship with the Colombian government? And what effect do you think this will have on the already tenuous relationship with them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Well, in fact, the information that has enabled us to take these actions is based on operations that were accomplished by Colombian law enforcement authorities with support of U.S. entities. We've been working very well in the course of this year with the Colombian police, for example.
I don't think it necessarily says anything about the Colombian government per se. What is means is that we urge and hope that the Colombian government itself will also take action against these entities and individuals in the case of those individuals who are not yet incarcerated.
I think what's come out over the course of this year as Colombian police operations have really improved dramatically in their scope and in what they have been able to achieve, the Colombian people themselves and the Colombian media have played a terrific job in this, have really been able to demonstrate the extraordinary penetration of the Cali Cartel through so much of Colombian society.
For example, three weeks before Miguel Rodriguez Orjuella, who's on this list, was captured, a number of his documents were seized that listed the names of 2,800 prominent Colombian citizens and the amounts of money that Rodriguez Orjuella had paid to them. And these were people in the government, in the courts, in the judiciary, in the Congress, in business, athletes, all through society. They have been able to distort the entire criminal code of Colombia. They have been able to eliminate extradition through their buying up of members of the constitutional assembly. What is -- they have been able to subvert Colombian society.
And what I, what we would all hope is that this would demonstrate to the Colombian people and to the Colombian government even more the need to take action as we have. But I think it's also critical that other nations, as I said earlier, take similar measures to what we have taken in order to choke off the ability of these empires, which in many cases are still being run by the incarcerated Cali Cartel leadership from continuing to flourish.
MR. MCCURRY: Last question.
Q How new for the United Nations is what the President is asking the United Nations to do? What activities does the U.N. now have against international terrorism, organized crime, narcotics smuggling?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: The U.N. has taken on some very important leadership roles in recent years. I mentioned earlier the 1988 Vienna U.N. convention, which we consider to be the model framework to guide countries in establishing legal frameworks and undertaking action. That's why I attributed so much importance for the need for the U.N. membership to ratify and implement fully that convention.
We work very closely with the United Nations drug control program, their crime branch, and also with other multilateral organizations, such as inside of the Organization of American States. I think it's quite clear if you listened to the Secretary General's remarks, which interestingly were very similar to the President's, that there is a building consensus of the nature and importance of these transnational problems and the need to confront them through al elements of the international system.
Q Some of you guys have been working on Colombia for a long time. Who came up with the idea of using IEEPA against the cartels, and how come it took so long?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I think the decision on using IEPA is one that was developed on an interagency basis. We have been able to develop a number of very effective tools over the course of time. It's not coincidental that we've -- that we have been helping honest police, an honest prosecutor general in Colombia over the course of this year. And that's produced dramatic results.
The reason that this is being used now is that over the last six or eight months, as the Colombia police under General Serrano have been able to have very effective operations supported by U.S. government entities, we have together been accumulating dramatic documentation, both quantitatively and qualitatively, about their activities, much more than we ever knew before. And as they've seized these documents, as they've been able to decode encoded computer traffic, as they've been able to develop other information, we've been able to develop a much better sense of the empires that they have. But clearly there's more. There's no question about that. And we now hope to be able to do the same things with other international criminal groups, narcotics, as well as many other kinds of international criminal activity.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me, before I excuse our team here, George Ward here could take any particular question on the subject of the U.N. reform or arrearages. Was there anything that needs to be cleared up on that? Yes, Leo.
Q The fact sheet, the last page, has a more pessimistic slant on perspective arrears than the President had in his speech. In his speech, the President said, I'm working with Congress and we'll work it out. But in your fact sheet you show at the end of FY '96 that we're going to be about $2 billion in arrears, depending on whether the House or Senate figure becomes the final one. Isn't the United States, according to your own figures, going in the wrong direction rather than in the supposedly right direction that the President intimated in his speech?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY WARD: If we get the worst of the figures that are up on the Hill now -- that is the Senate figures -- we're going to go steeply in the wrong direction. The President's point is that we have begun a dialogue with the Congress on U.N. reform, and we hope to deepen that dialogue in the coming days and weeks in order to improve the situation markedly.
Q -- at worst, but even the best of the congressional scenarios you show the situation getting worse to $1.4 billion, which is worse than it is today.
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY WARD: We feel that working with Congress that we can implement the President's pledge to pay back all our obligations to the United Nations. The key is to demonstrate to the Congress that the U.N. is willing and able to begin a process of reform. We've laid out a four-part reform agenda. We feel that if we can make that reform agenda real, that it might be possible to convince the Congress that reform is happening and that we can move to a better financial situation.
Q Where would that money come from? Are you talking about a new appropriation, the Pentagon, the Medicare Trust Fund?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY WARD: That's going to be up to the Congress and to dialogue between the administration and Congress.
Q What's the administration's idea on that?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY WARD: We're going to Congress with a number of proposals on U.N. reform, with a number of proposals on how the dialogue between the executive and the legislature on peacekeeping and peacekeeping decisions can be improved. And we'd like to hear their reactions to those ideas before we get into specifics of funding.
Q Can I ask about Bosnia -- no, no, in this respect -- financially. The working theory is each country pays for the upkeep of its peacekeeping forces and you know they're not going to use dual key and all, but you're going to have some resolution for the U.N. Will the administration ask the U.N. in any way to finance this operation?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY WARD: The working theory for Bosnia is that we would seek a Security Council resolution that would authorize a coalition, in this case, under the command of NATO, to implement a peace agreement. There would be some certain humanitarian and other U.N. operations left over which would be either financed by voluntary contributions, as they are now, or under the regular budget. But the peacekeeping operation would be one that would be financed through other means -- non-U.N. means.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:25 P.M. EDT