U.S. official: Little sign of crime-oil price link

A gas pump is hung at a gas station in Seoul August 12, 2005. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is little sign global organized crime is helping to drive up oil prices, a senior Justice Department official said on Friday, despite a U.S. accusation the groups had a strong presence in global energy markets.

“I don’t think that you can directly link the two,” Alice Fisher, head of the department’s criminal division, said in an interview.

However, Fisher said the groups’ wealth and their involvement in global financial markets threaten to undermine market stability and transparency.

Her comments followed the release on Wednesday of new U.S. strategy for fighting organized crime, which was based on a still-classified threat assessment that found organized crime groups controlled “significant positions” in global energy and vital strategic materials markets. It said their holdings in U.S. strategic materials markets were expanding.

“We want our markets to be transparent. We want our markets to be run by legitimate businesses and legitimate investors,” Fisher said.

“And when you have these people that are engaged in multimillion-dollar fraud and other illegal activities, coming into our markets, whether it be the energy or any other sector, it has the opportunity, and a corrupt opportunity, to threaten the stability and transparency of those markets.”

Officials said the government was not for now seeking any new money for its effort to fight international organized crime.

Editing by Lori Santos