The Use Of Information And Communications Technology In The Commission Of Crime.
The British High Commissioner to the Bahamas recently addressed a local Rotary Club on what he described as*”probably the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, and one which is of major concern to my own government in our efforts to help safe guard and develop the affairs of the international community.”*
H.E. Peter Heigl pointed out that the British Government is making a concerted effort through its own agencies and those of international partners to alert all to the dangers, and to work with the international community to combat these new threats as they develop.
As background, the High Commissioner pointed out that access to information and communications technology (ICT) is globally available and increasingly used. *”My government believes there are about 500 million e-mail addresses in the world today. We are predicting that it will rise to 1.5 billion by 2005,”* he said.
Criminals around the world increasingly use computers to commit traditional crimes, including financial or credit card fraud, cyber harrassment, copyright infringements, and the distribution of child pornography. Computer hacking is also another area of international concern.
On the matter of Money Laundering, Mr. Heigl pointed out that the British Government and the Government of The Bahamas are very concerned to develop cooperation to prevent such criminal activity. *”The plain fact however,”*he said *”is that we shall need to develop international monitoring and mutual legal assistance arrangements very considerably in this new century to keep pace with technology. It and the Internet allow money to be instantaneously transferred around the world to cyber entities that can be created and dismantled without leaving a trace.”*
The British Government has been particularly active and in the forefront of international discussion. Along with other European Union members the UK signed the Council of Europe Convention on Cyber Crime last year. This Convention deals with criminal offences relating to interference with systems, unauthorised access, electronic fraud and forgery, offensive content and intellectual property offences. It is the first binding multilateral agreement specifically to address the problems posed by the international nature of cyber crime.
In 1997 the G-8 group of countries established a body to look at computer related crime, and this has produced a number of initiatives to facilitate cross border electronic searches and the tracing of communications. The G-8 have adopted a 10 point action plan which includes reviews of legislation, measures to ensure the availability of trained and equipped law enforcement personnel, taking cyber crime issues into account when negotiating legal assistance agreements, and methods for preserving electronic evidence to ensure it is made available in foreign criminal proceedings.
Further, the UK, as a leading member of Interpol, has been working in a number of specialist groups on information technology crime and Europol is currently undertaking a study concerned with the creation of an EU data base for suspicious financial transactions.
The United Nations has also addressed the issue of crime involving computer or telecommunication technologies. The UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and its two associated Protocols will apply where computer or telecommunications networks are used by offenders in support of more traditional forms of transnational organised crime. The UK formally signed the Convention in Palermo in December 2000 and The Bahamas also acceded in October 2001.
Within the UK, the Home Secretary has recently made an additional $35 million available over the next two years to fight high tech crime and this has enabled the UK to create a high tech Crime Unit within its National Crime Squad. Their role will be to investigate serious and organised crime, operating on a national or international scale, that involves computers or networks such as the Internet. The High Commissioner pointed out that he expects the British High Commission in Nassau to be involved in facilitating cooperation with the Bahamian law enforcement agencies in future.
This funding will also be used to allow the UK Police to investigate computer networks and forensically examine computer data, provide training, advice and support to investigators and cooperate with industry on crime prevention. It is hoped that the British Government will be able to offer such advanced training to other Commonwealth Police Forces such as The Bahamas in future. It did make a start in 2001 with the award of a short scholarship to Cardiff University “White Collar and Organised Crime Unit” for a Royal Bahamas Police Force Financial Intelligence Officer.
Existing UK anti-terrorism laws also target cyber terrorists, and the UK Home Secretary has announced new legislative proposals in Parliament to combat terrorism. This includes measures to oblige communication service providers to retain data generated in the course of their business – namely a record of calls made and other details.
The International Crime Section of the UK Foreign Office coordinates the UK’s response to international organised crime, together with the Economic Policy Department which handles fraud matters and anti-money laundering cooperation -*”in which we keep in close touch with the Government of The Bahamas by informing key Ministers when we hear of new attempts by criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting officials,”* said the High Commissioner.
Mr. Heigl concluded that the British High Commission will continue to work bilaterally with the Government of The Bahamas’ law enforcement agencies to meet the new challenges of cyber crime and gave assurance that the UK will participate fully in all the international discussions directed towards constructing worldwide safeguards to combat these new generation criminals.