Sporadic cases of mass killings, horrific killings of young children due to the proliferation of gun culture, exploitation and abuse of children and women, targeting of the elderly for identity theft and defrauding of their income are becoming commonplace. Issues of concern are growing and resonating around the world – from human trafficking to disturbing cases of financial crimes from the top and mighty safe haven offered to fugitives accused of terrorism and money laundering and the proliferation of illicit trade based on counterfeiting and smuggling. Transnational organized crime continues to thrive through illicit networks that operate through money laundering. The complex intertwining structure of crimes that finance terrorism around the world has not yet been demolished.
In a democratic regime, the police force must act in moderation, within the limits of legal procedures. Offenders appreciate the ease of mobility and Internet access. There is no downward trend in these threats in sight. Police forces around the world, including highly modernized agencies with sophisticated capabilities, face these challenges.
Rising crime has put law enforcement to the test. It is in this context that the 90th General Assembly of Interpol will be hosted by India this month.
In 2015, Interpol, CBI and the World Bank jointly organized the Global Focal Point conference on the specific issue of asset recovery. The lecture was delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who called on everyone to ensure that dirty money does not drive out good money. This time, however, when Interpol’s supreme governing body – the 195-nation strong General Assembly – meets, it will be asked to formulate strategies to combat the growing threat of crimes with transnational ramifications.
Interpol uses 19 databases and tools to issue alerts, share information on criminals and their modus operandi. It has a huge repository of fingerprints, DNA profiles, facial recognition kits, financial cyber crimes and property crimes among others.
Providing information on crime and criminals in the digital space, preventing misuse of cyberspace and blocking hackers on the dark web are areas where Interpol’s global security architecture is used. He has undertaken various operations in different countries relating to trafficking in women and children, cybercrime, online hacking, fake pharmaceuticals, narcotics smuggling, illegal trade in firearms, missing persons, documents lost and stolen travel bags.
The Interpol databases filled by India relate to the Interpol Criminal Information System, Stolen and Lost Travel Documents, Works of Art and International Child Sexual Exploitation. Interpol issues color-coded notices of different hues – red, yellow, blue, black, orange, green and purple. A large number of red corner notices were issued at the behest of Indian law enforcement, resulting in the detention of several accused and convicted fugitives. India, as one of the oldest and strongest members of Interpol, has been involved in productive engagements over the years. Several operations have been carried out by the CBI with Interpol.
Interpol, however, must now articulate an expansion beyond its databases and tools. Aside from the success of its secure i-24 for 24/7 information sharing, the importance of real-time dissemination of insights gained through unbiased use of data analytics as a crucial imperative of emerging challenges should gain prominence. Equitable weight should be given to the legitimate interests of growing economies pursuing democratic charters. In its composition, Interpol resembles the UN. But it is not intended for dispute resolution. It is designed to assist police forces in member countries. Interpol is neither an investigative agency like the CBI nor a front line police force. Its mandate is to share information and provide background technical assistance to law enforcement agencies. Interpol’s action against notorious fugitives follows commensurate action by member countries where the fugitives might seek refuge. Interpol cannot act alone. The desired legal course of action depends on bilateral agreements such as mutual legal assistance treaties.
The significance of the General Assembly held in Delhi during Amrit Kaal is twofold. First and foremost, India is becoming the fifth largest economy in the world and is poised to become the third in the near future. Second, the country has created a positive impact by reducing terrorism-related violence. Moreover, India is now a recognized technological power. This demographic dividend of a large, young, tech-focused workforce in startups can be used to upgrade the security architecture. India’s skills development resources through capacity building programs run by the CBI training academy are utilized periodically by the international police fraternity, especially law enforcement agencies in Asia and Africa. It is time for India’s coaxial engagements with Interpol and other member countries to further accelerate, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Interpol will be 100 years old next year. Now is the time to calibrate to counter emerging challenges. Policing is not simply a process of maintaining the rule of law through punitive deterrents against crime and criminals. Effective and public-minded policing is the most meaningful measure of trust that people of diverse geopolitical contours want and deserve. Interpol and law enforcement agencies in member countries must strive to build, maintain and operate a people-centric ecosystem to meet ever-changing challenges.
The author is the former director of the CBI and the former head of India’s National Central Bureau for Interpol