International Money Laundering: From Latin America to Asia, Who Pays?

2003 Riesenfeld Syposium

Time:February 28 – March 1, 2004
Location: Boalt Hall

Event Overview:
Since its inception in the spring of 2000, the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Symposium, presented by the Berkeley Journal of International Law, has been dedicated to raising and discussing urgent topics of international law. In 2002 and 2003, the symposium focused on violations of human rights and on those, like the Honorable Justice Louise Arbour, who dared to face and defy them. Justice Arbour, during last year’s Riesenfeld lecture, spoke of the horrors she had witnessed and of the courage of those who had to withstand them, as well as of her own involvement with the war tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Our commitment to human rights issues has compelled us to reach further and seek out issues in which not only legislatures, international tribunals and governments can intervene, but issues which impact the private sector as well. In 2003, the Riesenfeld conference turned its attention to the ever more urgent problem of money laundering. It stems in the parsimony of resources in the developing world and the resulting extra legal ways of obtaining them. It is rooted deeply in the cultures of societies which have not known stable regimes or benevolent rulers. It has been perpetuated by the corruption and decadence of the higher echelons of nations new to or unacquainted with democracy. Its urgency emanates from the poverty, crime and violence it breeds. Its venom has poisoned the morale of societies and broken the spirits of peoples.

We are aware of the fashion in which the private sector, our banks and corporations, are affected by money laundering. We are aware of the intersection of business interest and the possibility for eradicating the corruption and infractions on the rights of those who do not belong to those self-enriching, corrupt higher echelons. Thus, we sought out individuals who understand the workings of the needs of new democracies, the buds of crime and the impetus for corruption and money laundering. We believe their research and writings will contribute significantly to the sparse existing work on the topic. We hope our joint effort, the scholars’ and the journal’s, will uncover solutions and constructive proposals on ways to defeat a phenomenon which has depleted the resources of needy societies and has robbed their citizens of economic and moral freedom and dignity.

The 2003 Stefan A. Riesenfeld Symposium addressed drug and weapons trafficking in Latin America and the money laundering schemes which go hand in hand with them. Additionally, the conference looked at new democracies in Asia and Eastern Europe, and in particular, at their lucrative trade in women. Significantly, the symposium addressed current measures dealing with money laundering, like the Patriot Act and “know your client” rules, as well as the potential for better measures and resolutions. Therefore, we believe that the private sector, in the face of banks and corporations, has a strong incentive to survey these issues, as they impact not only the rights of human beings to lead free lives, but also the economies of the developing world and the business of the first world.

Our mission is to bring to the forefront of public discourse difficult, if not unbearably heart-wrenching, issues in international law. In 2003, we strove to do that with the problem of money laundering and to challenge our international community and organizations to recognize its immediacy and need for redress.

Following the event, a reception was held where Louis Henkin was presented with the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Award for his outstanding contributions to the field of international law.

UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies
Boalt Hall Dean’s Office
Boalt Hall Office of Student Services
UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly
Boalt Hall Student Association
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, LLP