“Money laundering is complex and criminals have sophisticated ways of moving money around”

Laura Liguori, a judge from Italy, has spent much of the past decade working on international projects for the EU or in EU Common Security and Defence Policy Missions. This has included two deployments at EUPOL COPPS – the first in 2015 – 2016, and the latest since September 2019. She believes that her work as a judge in Italy is strengthened by the experiences she has had abroad, but also that the international advice and training she delivers is made more effective by regular periods developing professionally in her home country. She will therefore soon return to her job in Italy as a pre-trial judge.

During her current deployment at EUPOL COPPS, she works a Prosecution Expert. In this role, she advises the Palestinian Attorney General’s Office (AGO), principally in the area of fighting economic crime.

“In my experience, Palestinian Public Prosecutors are highly educated and motivated,” Liguori says. “We support them to strengthen their knowledge in certain specific subject areas, like investigations into money laundering, or environmental crime”.

“Money laundering is a highly complex area,” Liguori continues, “and criminals have sophisticated ways of moving money around. For this reason, prosecutors need support to master specific techniques for gathering evidence, and presenting evidence to a court that might lead to a conviction”.

Liguori and a number of other colleagues at EUPOL COPPS are working on a manual, which will be presented to the AGO to assist their anti-money laundering efforts. “This will provide an overview of some of the most important recent investigations which have been carried out internationally when it comes to money laundering,” the Italian judge notes. “This should be a good tool, and we are also providing information on best practices in investigation techniques as well as the international legal framework that governs the fight against money laundering”.

She advocates for stricter anti money laundering measures such as the seizure and confiscation of assets accumulated by those convicted, including confiscating assets registered in the name of relatives/third parties, if it can be proven that they were obtained illegally. These are common practices in her home country and have helped in the fight against organised crime.  

The rule of law team at EUPOL COPPS has also been promoting Palestinian inter-agency cooperation. “There are many institutions that work on economic crimes, and it’s important that they work together. For example, to make sure that the food in supermarkets is safe to eat, you need to have cooperation between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, the Customs Police and others. If a crime is committed, prosecutors need to have evidence collected in such a way as to be useful in court. We’ve been supporting our Palestinian counterparts with the aim of strengthening the information that is submitted to prosecutors”.

Liguori is keen to emphasise the benefits of adopting new technologies for justice systems, and has been underlining these to her Palestinian counterparts. “It is not always easy for Palestinians to move around the West Bank, particularly now with the Covid-19 pandemic. What happens if you have a witness in Bethlehem and an interrogator in Ramallah for example? Moving more elements of the criminal justice system online would help to speed up proceedings and make justice more accessible. Proceedings would also be sped up if there were digital methods for submitting legal files”.

The Italian judge also believes that greater use of digital tools will help to reduce the number of people who are in pre-trial detention. She hopes that the number of people in pre-trial detention in the West Bank will decrease soon and is also believes that access to defence lawyers early in a trial should be expanded for suspects.

She is certain to miss her time in Ramallah. “Everything sticks in Palestine, from people, to places, to food, to spices. Everything is an opportunity to learn. I have to admit that when I first joined the Mission, I knew something about the history, but I didn’t know as much as I know now. It’s a place, but you also feel a sadness because of the situation. I’ll miss the colours, and the sunsets, and going to buy bread”.

Given that Liguori has returned to EUPOL COPPS once before, it may be the case that this deployment is not her last.

 

Please note that the photo illustrating this article was taken in December 2019, i.e. before the entry into force of measures to control the spead of Covid-19 in Ramallah.