After two losses in court, the Justice Department wants to broaden a provision of the Patriot Act that allows U.S. judges to freeze assets linked to foreign crimes, reports the Wall Street Journal. In New York and Washington, D.C., federal judges said the U.S. acted prematurely on requests by foreign governments for restraining orders against hundreds of millions of dollars in assets allegedly controlled by a Russian businessman and a Brazilian banker ensnared in criminal investigations in their native countries.
The cases have raised questions about the extent to which U.S. prosecutors and courts should rely on the legal processes of foreign governments in countries with unproven or uneven criminal justice systems. The issue has taken on more weight amid a global trend for greater international cooperation in law enforcement, spurred in large part by the U.S. The courts ruled the department may seek to have assets frozen based on a judgment from a foreign court, but not on allegations of violations of foreign law or temporary orders by foreign courts. Justice Department officials fear the rulings will make foreign governments less receptive to U.S. requests for legal assistance.