Interview with Celso Gamboa Sánchez, Costa Rican Deputy Public Safety Minister

first_img In an exclusive interview granted to Diálogo, Costa Rican Deputy Public Safety Minister Celso Gamboa Sánchez referred to the legal barriers that come between the countries of Central America and that often make it impossible to bring the full force of the law to drug traffickers and members of organized crime in general. The interview took place during the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) 2012, in El Salvador, where Gamboa explained that a group of Costa Rican authorities is promoting the harmonization of at least nine criminal offenses in order to combat drug shipments, murder-for-hire, criminal gangs, and human trafficking, among other plagues that affect the countries of the region. Diálogo: During your presentation at CENTSEC 2012, you stated that the armed forces of Central America invest countless efforts and sacrifice human lives, but there are still deficiencies in the implementation of justice. Could you discuss this topic further? Deputy Minister Celso Gamboa Sánchez: We have effective technical, military, and police means of response. There’s a high level of seizures and a great number of barriers for the transportation and shipment of narcotics. Nevertheless, there should be legal containment in order to be able to land telling blows against groups of drug traffickers. There’s no legal communication among the Central American countries. Thanks to the collaboration of friendly governments, we have efficient seizures, but the opportunity to organize investigations that can truly affect the stability of these groups of drug traffickers is miniscule if we don’t have a uniform legal framework so that law enforcement and the judicial system can interact throughout the countries that are involved. From Costa Rica, we’ve tried to promote an initiative to harmonize our legislation. Diálogo: Could you give us examples of what exactly concerns you as Costa Rican Deputy Minister of Public Safety? Deputy Minister Gamboa: Costa Rica succeeded in seizing 5.5 tons of cocaine in the first four months of 2012, but we don’t have the opportunity to know where that cocaine is coming from or where it’s going, because the legislation is not recociled so that the country that is sending the drugs can track these shipments. The U.S. Southern Command says that only 33 percent of the drugs that are produced are successfully seized. We don’t see the remaining 67 percent because we don’t have more structural articulation. Diálogo: You also mentioned that in some cases, drugs are seized and the alleged drug traffickers are arrested, but they never end up behind bars… Deputy Minister Gamboa: There have been cases where the procedure used in boarding a vessel on the high seas by friendly cooperating governments might appear to violate domestic law. For example, in Costa Rica’s Pacific waters, poor handling of the scene by the crew of the vessel that boarded a drug-trafficking group led the court to declare the seizure invalid, and as a consequence, they released the individuals and returned their assets. This happens precisely because the legislation isn’t harmonized. There’s a disparity between the number of seizures we have and the number of people who are serving sentences. Many of the people convicted of drug trafficking in Costa Rica are involved in the retail drug trade or in introducing small amounts of drugs into penitentiaries, but large-scale drug trafficking, which is the worrying amount that’s going to the high-consumption market, – that’s the kind of people who are not truly being put on trial, because we’re trying the people who are responsible for transporting it, but the people who direct the organization remain beyond the reach of the law, completely untouchable and with impunity. The cases in which drug bosses are sent to prison are very unusual. Diálogo: Even when they’re arrested? Deputy Minister Gamboa: Even in some cases when they’re arrested, it’s impossible to prove the charges, because the evidence is in another country. The legislation is not adjusted to the parameters of particular countries. Many money-laundering cases have ended with acquittals when we were certain that the funds came from drug trafficking, but it wasn’t successfully proved. Diálogo: You also referred to the issue of financial legislation and money laundering and how each country has its own way of dealing with these cases. Deputy Minister Gamboa: Yes, there are countries where a public prosecutor can lift the banking secrecy; in others, it’s a judge. In Costa Rica, it’s a judge, so under Costa Rican law, information acquired by lifting the banking secrecy in Panama, for example, where this is done by a prosecutor, can’t be used in Costa Rica, because it wasn’t a judge. And this is a contradiction. We’re left without a fundamental tool, which is tracing the money. If there’s no harmony in the legislation, requesting information from other countries in order to use it as evidence in our own countries becomes impossible. Diálogo: Are you familiar with any models that could be followed? Deputy Minister Gamboa: In Costa Rica, a law against organized crime has already been implemented. In Central America and the Dominican Republic, we’re promoting the role of the undercover agent, so that an agent can have a wider sphere of action and can follow a shipment from Panama or Colombia to its final destination, so that he can have the capacity to take action and have his action recognized by the rest of the countries as part of the process of investigation. We’ve promoted that on the legislative level in the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. It’s well received on the technical level. Where we haven’t succeeded, just imagine, is the reception on the legislative level, among people who are supposed to pass the laws at this point in time. This issue is fundamental. The remaining criminal offenses are defined very similarly in Central America, but they don’t match entirely. This is a situation that we’re trying to remedy through a set of model criminal legislation for the Americas. Diálogo: How do these initiatives arise? Deputy Minister Gamboa: They arise out of the need that we have in all our countries to wage a united fight against a phenomenon that is filling Latin America with deaths. We pay the death toll here. People are dying in Mexico, people are dying in Honduras, in Costa Rica, in Nicaragua, in El Salvador as a result of this drug trafficking. We’re bleeding to death little by little, and we need a uniform response. At some point in time, world legislation should be organized to combat organized crime. Diálogo: You spoke about a law-enforcement initiative currently in effect… Deputy Minister Gamboa: Costa Rica has made a great leap with the law against organized crime and the creation of a law to protect victims and witnesses. We’ve suffered the murders of some people who were serving as witnesses, and we recently suffered a setback due to a ruling by our country’s constitutional court that makes it mandatory for an accused individual to know the identity of his accuser. This situation has led to a decrease in the number of people who want to participate as witnesses, since they need to protect their lives. We’re promoting the idea that in organized crime the right to life should supersede or should come before the right of the accused to be fully aware of the identity of his accuser. Guaranteeing [that right] solely to the judge, having him be the upholder of legality and having the ability to provide the individual with the guarantee that, in effect, there is a true declaration and not one fabricated by the state. Diálogo: As you return to your country, what do you take with you as something positive, valuable, from this conference? Deputy Minister Gamboa: The U.S. Southern Command’s great interest in increasing that country’s cooperation is fundamental. This is an example of responsibility, of solidarity. Also, of course, promoting our ability to build relationships and get to know what other countries are doing in these fights. We all have similar, equal, identical interests, and our combat strategies and tactics have been laid out today. Evidently, I’m taking a very significant store of things with me. By Dialogo August 06, 2012last_img read more

Joseph Mariathasan: China’s financial Big Bang

first_imgInstitutions lacking a China strategy should ask themselves when they intend to develop one, Joseph Mariathasan writesI was sitting next to a senior Scottish lawyer and his wife over lunch near Glasgow a couple of years ago, and they were moaning that their 20-year-old son had decided to be a photographer but was now staying at home, doing little to fulfil his aspirations. It was wonderful to see their expressions when I suggested the answer was quite simple: they should buy themselves return tickets to Beijing and their son a single.I was joking, of course, but only half joking. In 1996, when I first went to Beijing, and the foreign community was small enough everyone seemed to know each other, I met quite a few people in their 20s who had done exactly that. Indeed, one person I met last year is now the COO of a major insurance company based in Asia.China still represents a tremendous opportunity. The inclusion of the yuan renminbi in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights marks another and significant step in China’s path towards full capital account liberalisation. A mature and functional finance industry, including functional capital markets, is a pre-requisite for successful currency and capital account liberalisation. The better financial markets work, the greater the benefits of liberalisation. A freely floated currency requires meaningful price signals to be reflected in a benchmark interest-rate curve, credit spreads and foreign-exchange crosses, both spot and forward, as well as in stocks and traded commodities. Of course, this all assumes mature financial-institution balance sheets, intermediation mechanisms and traded capital markets, with investors and issuers managing their balance sheets though this system.There is still some way to go, but China’s financial Big Bang has already commenced, and its pace is accelerating. There are numerous important new sectors sporting annual growth rates from 20-30% up to 100-500% where there was no business as recently as 3-6 years ago in the absence of a licensing and regulatory framework. The scale of this development is unprecedented. What China has already accomplished in terms of its exports, urbanisation and real estate development will now occur in finance.For the world’s investors and fund managers, China’s Big Bang will provide a cornucopia of opportunities. China’s non-SOE corporates will become the largest credit-issuer base in the world. On a purchasing-power-parity-adjusted basis, the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector is larger than that of Europe or the US but underdeveloped in credit-issuance terms. The ratio of total liabilities to assets in the private SME sector is still only about 31%, and fully half currently carry no debt on their balance sheets.Liberalisation appears self-perpetuating. The success of renminbi (RMB) liberalisation since 2009, combined with achievements in domestic finance liberalisation, together require – and would allow for – the liberalisation of the exchange rate. This can be expected to continue, in fits and starts and at varying speeds. In time, a free-floating RMB and global activities of China’s larger financial institutions will require significant opening of the capital account. The flow of China’s domestic retail savings into overseas assets has barely begun, but it will become a major source of capital, particularly into higher-yielding assets. The US Federal Reserve’s rate rise and the potential for the US dollar to strengthen on the back of further increases will act as added stimulus for those flows.The historical impact of China’s financial Big Bang is often lost in the rhetoric of speculation and hysteria about short-term market moves. Yet these are of little consequence and to be expected in any developing economy. The financial centres of the world are already competing to establish themselves as offshore centres for Chinese finance. It also is another reason why investors and financial institutions should consider looking at China as a separate investment proposition, as opposed to merely a component in a heterogeneous emerging market asset class.The opportunities are vast, the changes are swift, but the experience of many institutions in China is still low or non-existent. As we enter 2016, those institutions that haven’t yet developed a China strategy should certainly start asking themselves when they intend to develop one.Joseph Mariathasan is a contributing editor at IPElast_img read more