The Department of Justice (DOJ) last week announced new measures by its Anticorruption Task Force (Task Force) to target corruption in Latin America, specifically in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. DOJ created this Task Force in June, on the heels of President Biden's Memorandum on Establishing the Fight Against Corruption as a Core United States National Security Interest, as well as other initiatives by President Biden and Vice President Harris aimed at addressing the root causes of migration from the region.
DOJ now has set up a tip line so anyone with information regarding corruption or the movement of illicit funds into or out of the United States can report such activity. If a tip has a jurisdictional connection to the United States, the Task Force is empowered to investigate, prosecute, and seek the forfeiture and return of stolen assets to victims. The Task Force brings together representatives from the DOJ Criminal Division's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Unit, Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in the International Unit of the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The Criminal Division work will be supported by agents from the FBI's International Corruption Unit, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, and the US Department of Homeland Security.
While the Biden Administration takes proactive measures to combat corruption in Northern Triangle countries close to the US border, the administration also has been flexing its enforcement muscles with respect to corruption in other Latin American countries. FCPA and anti-money laundering enforcement actions brought this year have concerned the bribery of Bolivian, Brazilian, Ecuadorian, and Venezuelan officials. Moreover, the administration has maintained economic sanctions regimes relating to Cuba and Venezuela.
For its part, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, under the leadership of a new Chair and Chief of the Enforcement Division, has brought FCPA charges this year against companies whose subsidiaries have violated the FCPA in Brazil and Peru (among other countries).
Scrutiny of business dealings in Latin America is likely to increase as DOJ's Task Force springs into action and DOJ tests out its new subpoena powers to seek the records of foreign-owned banks.
Originally published 25 October, 2021