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How political forces shape the system of justice

Fighting crimes is not an easy task. It requires determination, courage and boldness. Financial crimes and organised crimes are a menace and the phenomena are spread all over the globe. Continuous efforts are being made by the prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to control and eradicate these crimes, but the results are not so encouraging. In the recent past, however, things changed in the southern district of New York where one prosecutor proved the myth surrounding financial crimes wrong and successfully fought against all types of odds. He successfully prosecuted the criminals involved in insider trading, bank fraud, organised crime, cyber crimes, and like.

These kinds of crimes are committed generally by big businesses, corporations, banks, insurance companies and like. Amongst the financial crimes insider trading is one which helps the beneficiaries to make millions. And indulging in insider trading is quite common among the big businesses in the United States; in the presence of complicated rules, however, it is not easy to catch the culprits and to punish them. Frankly, it requires an extra courage, motivation, and professionalism to lay hands on the den of thieves.

The scene in the Southern District of New York changed in 2009 when President Barack Obama appointed Preet Baharara as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. As a man of principles, he followed a courageous approach and established his office’s leading role in pursuing corporate crimes. And he reached the conclusion that application of law in an aggressive manner was the only way to fight against the menace of organised crime.

Successful investigation and prosecution, for the first time, was made leading to conviction of the CEO of Galleon Group namely, Raj Rajaratnam and his accomplices Rajat Gupta and Anil Kumar on the charge of insider trading. In a short period of time 85 more cases related to insider trading were tried, and the accused in all these cases were convicted. In 2013, criminal charges were framed against SAC Capital Advisors LP, a hedge fund firm and the prosecutors successfully bargained a settlement in which the state was able to recover 1.8 billion US dollars siphoned off through insider trading. A common practice noticed by the prosecutors was that businesses usually engage themselves in misleading the government while insuring risky loans, Citibank in this regard was charged by the prosecutors and the bank ultimately settled with the prosecutors for to pay 158 million dollars. In the Madoff Ponzi scheme and the J.P. Morgan Chase case, the bank settled with the prosecutors to forfeit 1.7 billion dollars – it was the largest forfeiture ever taken place and that too from a bank.

There are many successful cases relating to banks, financial institutions, and multinational corporations. Baharara’s efforts made impossible possible and hidden crimes of financial world came to light, in public crimes several present and past public officials, representatives and office holders were investigated and prosecuted successfully. For example, NYP’s officer Gilberto Ville was prosecuted and sentenced on corruption charges. In addition, hundreds of people belonging to criminal gangs and organised crime were taken to task. There were many prosecutions relating to terrorism and cyber crime. Many Poker companies engaged in money laundering were closed due to the fear of prosecution and investigations.

Baharara really brought a sense, direction and proper orientation to the prosecution agency. These deeds brought name and fame to him and extended respect and public recognition. At the same time these efforts were not approved by many and he made powerful groups and lobbies to turn against him. In November, he met with President Trump at Trump Tower, and the President asked him to continue as the state attorney even under his presidency, an offer which he accepted.

However, the tables turned in March 2017 when the new Attorney General of US’ office demanded his resignation. He refused to tender his resignation for the obvious reasons, however, next day he was fired from his office.

One can argue that in American political system Baharara had to leave his job once the new government has taken over the reins of the administration, may be yes, but the question arises why he was asked by Trump to continue and what circumstances changed his mind to replace him. Possibly there can be many reasons for that, but from a policy perspective , it is evident that each political party has to cater for the interests of those who have helped them to come to power, and Trump being the representative of ‘reformist’ wing of the Republican Party represents the ultra rightists and has the support of big businesses and global corporations. Obviously, these interests may have fears that they might be investigated by the prosecutors for their ill doings, may be these elements were not ready to see Baharara in the office being fearful of his principled working on the issue of public corruption.

Among many explanations for the event, some worth consideration propose that:

— Preet Baharara had the ability to investigate Trump’s conflict of interests.

— Trump’s businesses have their main offices in the NYC and that too In the Southern District of New York.

— Reason and curiosity demand revealing of reasons why Trump changed his mind?

— There are arguments stating that new administration wants a bunch of tamed prosecutors.

— Many are arguing that timings of changing the prosecutor are suspicious and there are hidden motives for the move.

The unfolding events are raising the curtains to show the real face of political conflicts which revolve around personal interests and gains. The real forces that change the shape of the system of justice are controlled by the vested interests, and the powerful in society do not want that the law be enforced and implemented in its true form. The fault of one prosecutor is that he intended to enforce the legal norms in its true sense and for many it was not acceptable as it was going to hurt their interests.

It may be submitted here that crimes and society are closely linked, for better or worse. Society is strongly affected by crime both due to the cost of crime as well as the decline in the quality of life that citizens suffer as a result of crime.

Society is the main actor to play the role to reduce and curb the crime in order to bring order and discipline in the society. But where the political parties succumb to the desires and wants of the powerful, the purpose of politics is lost and we create economic externalities which bring inequality and chaos in society.

The events happening around the globe are witness to the fact that politics has not been able to curb the tendencies of monopoly and the powerful remain uncontrolled thereby affecting the poor and week in the society? All this requires a review for those who matter in the political system and to review the tendencies being followed by some to create imbalance in the society.

Zafar Azeem, "How political forces shape the system of justice," Business Recorder. 2017-03-18.
Keywords: Law and Humanities , Crime prevention , Financial crises , Law Enforcement , Bank fraud , Insurance companies , Trade regulation , Money laundering , Law , America , CEO , SAC , LP , US , NYP , NYC