Federal prosecutors in New York City are ratcheting up an aggressive strategy to pursue terrorists, drug traffickers, and corrupt public officials who operate on foreign soil, reports the Washington Post. The expansion of traditional crime-fighting boundaries is controversial among experts, with some questioning whether the effort is the best use of limited federal resources. Advocates say that using the long arm of U.S. law to apprehend international figures whose crimes involve the United States might be the only way to attack an increasingly sophisticated global criminal threat.
Ex-Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo, who was arrested this week by police in Guatemala after money-laundering charges were unsealed in New York, is the latest target. A federal grand jury in Manhattan accused Portillo of conspiring to divert millions of dollars in military funds and donations intended to buy children’s books into the pockets of relatives and close political aides. Since taking office last year, Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney in Manhattan, has launched or reemphasized cases against a Somali pirate accused of hijacking the ship Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean; three African men charged with conspiracy to commit narco-terrorism in support of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; and a Guantanamo Bay detainee charged in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, which killed 224.