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ICE, Russian Federation sign historic agreement

Good old fashioned law enforcement prevails when agencies agree to counter criminal activity by sharing information in real time

ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton speaks at the signing ceremony while the Russian delegation listens.
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton speaks at the signing ceremony while the Russian delegation listens.

On March 26, two major law enforcement agencies from different continents agreed to bypass a great divide of bureaucratic red tape by signing a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU).

In the MOU, the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Investigative Committee of the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation agreed to "cooperate to counter criminal activity in areas of mutual interest and to share information concerning individuals, groups and organizations involved in criminal activity."

Russian delegates traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton and other agency officials at ICE headquarters to sign the document, which Pyotr Litvishko, the head of the Division of International Cooperation for the Investigative Committee called, "a landmark in the relationship of our relatively young agencies."

ICE and the Investigative Committee were established in 2003 and 2007, respectively. In fact, ICE is the first U.S. agency and only the second in the world to sign an MOU allowing ICE to work on international investigations with the Investigative Committee.

John Morton and Elena Leonenko, deputy head of the Investigative Committee, signed the four-page document that states the details of the agreement.

Law enforcement operations that cross international boundaries are often hampered by a formal, lengthy and cumbersome process involving a lot of paperwork in information gathering and exchanging. Investigators hot on a trail are often forced to play a waiting game as critical time ticks by.

"Investigations are a dynamic process, and this MOU allows ICE investigators to pick up the phone or send an e-mail to our office in Moscow and work a case in a real time manner," said ICE Attaché in Moscow Adam Levine.

ICE, the second largest law enforcement agency in the U.S., and the Investigative Committee, the largest law enforcement agency in Russia, are no strangers when it comes to working together on investigations. Both agencies share the same criminal jurisdictions, including targeting child predators, human traffickers, financial schemers and thieves who steal historic and cultural treasures.

When Russian authorities reached out to ICE for help in locating one of their national treasures stolen from the Hermitage collection-a silver pendant engraved with the image of Peter the Great-ICE followed up with an undercover investigation led by the ICE Office of Investigations in Seattle, Wash. ICE found the valued item and returned it to Russia in a repatriation ceremony on March 4, 2010, at the U.S. Embassy.

ICE and the Investigative Committee also joined forces in apprehending Andrew Mogilyansky, who ran an international prostitution ring that solicited Russian children for sex. Mogilyansky, a naturalized U.S. citizen with a dual citizen of Russia, is now serving a 97-month prison sentence meted out by the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. He was also ordered to pay restitution to several Russian children.

Litvishko cited these cases as "tangible examples of the fact that for justice, borders do not exist."

After initial introductions and gift exchanges between the agencies, Morton led the ceremony. He said that "good law enforcement calls for speedy action" and with the agreement "We can call on each other directly and provide the information that we need quickly so that we can prevent people like Mr. Mogilyansky from abusing children in Russia rather than waiting around for paperwork in the U.S. or Russia to move from one place to another. It makes sense for the two of us to work together without delay, without red tape and go straight forward in good old fashioned law enforcement."

To read the news release on the signing, visit the ICE news section.