The St. Petersburg International Legal Forum is the legal framework of the World Trade Organization. It’s being held for the second time now — on May 17-19.
The Forum was first organized last year by Russia’s Justice Ministry. Attendees this year come from about 50 countries and include Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The gathering is billed as a platform for dialog about major legal issues, including those impacting international relations.
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In his speech to the Forum on Thursday, Holder, above, said this about corruption and the fight against it:
As we’ve seen in nations large and small, rich and poor, young and old – when corruption takes hold, political institutions tend to lose legitimacy – threatening democratic stability and the rule of law. Corruption undermines the health of international markets, stifling competition and repelling foreign investment. And, as we’ve learned, corruption often is a “gateway crime” – one that allows money laundering, gang violence, terrorism and other crimes to thrive.
The U.S. government – and the Department of Justice that I am privileged to lead – have long recognized corruption as a transnational problem. And I know firsthand that combating it is no easy task. More than 35 years ago, I began my legal career prosecuting public corruption cases in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. So, I understand how difficult this struggle can be. As many countries – including both the United States and Russia – have learned, beating back corruption requires a fundamental shift – in the way business leaders and public officials conduct and think of themselves, and in the way law enforcement operates. But I also know that such fundamental shifts can happen.
For example, in the United States, we have made great strides in recent years. From our robust enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to the landmark Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative – which we launched two years ago to target and recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption that have been laundered into or through the U.S. – we are continually making strides in our fight against corruption at home, and in our efforts to help foreign countries increase their anti-corruption enforcement capacity. In fact, over the last two decades – in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, and at the request of host nations – the Justice Department’s Criminal Division has placed legal advisors in dozens of countries around the world, including Russia, to participate in developing and sustaining these institutions.
We’ve seen clearly that prosecution is not the only effective way to curb global corruption; and that we must also work with business leaders to encourage, ensure, and enforce sound corporate governance. Above all, we’ve discovered – and proven – that meaningful, measurable progress is possible; and that we should not, and must not, settle for anything less.
In each of these areas – and in our ongoing work to promote global security and good governance – I want to point out that the United States intends to serve, not as a patron but as a partner – as a collaborator, not a monitor. I also want to reiterate something that President Obama said shortly after taking office, when he visited the New Economic School in Moscow. In describing the key pillars of a successful democracy, he acknowledged that, “By no means is America perfect. But it is our commitment to certain universal values which allows us to correct our imperfections, to improve constantly, and to grow stronger over time.”
For the American people – and for the United States government – this commitment is stronger than ever. But the challenges we face demand that this commitment be shared – across jurisdictions, borders, oceans, and across areas of disagreement and division. . . .
The full text of Attorney General Holder’s speech is here.