January 14, 2015 / 7:55 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. settles long-running corruption case against Teamsters union

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department agreed on Wednesday to reduce and ultimately end more than two decades of government oversight of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, saying the union has made significant strides to cut ties with organized crime.

The agreement between Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and the Teamsters, which is the dominant union in the U.S. trucking industry, would dismiss a 1988 racketeering case against the union. It must be approved by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska.

The original case was part of a crackdown on the mafia, led by Rudolph Giuliani when he was working as a U.S. prosecutor, prior to becoming the mayor of New York City.

To settle racketeering charges against the union, a 1989 consent decree called for a court-appointed monitor to be installed to oversee the Teamsters’ internal affairs. The organization also agreed to change their election process to root out corruption.

The proposed agreement would reduce the government supervision, with the aim of ending it completely.

    Bharara said significant progress has been made to overcome the union’s corrupt past, but that the government will move ahead cautiously.

“Although substantially diminished, the threat posed to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters by organized crime and other corrupting influences persists,” Bharara said in a statement.

The agreement provides for continued monitoring by a court-appointed review board to investigate and prosecute corruption allegations and for ongoing independent oversight of union votes. Union members are also permanently prohibited from associating with organized crime groups.

The agreement sets up a five-year “transition period” for the government to relinquish its role.

Teamsters President Jim Hoffa called the agreement “historic.”

“After decades of hard work and millions of dollars spent, we can finally say that corrupt elements have been driven from the Teamsters and that the government oversight can come to an end,” Hoffa said in video message to the union’s 1.4 million members.

Hoffa is the son of Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters leader of the 1950s and 1960s who served time in prison for jury tampering and defrauding a union pension fund. The elder Hoffa mysteriously disappeared in 1975 and was widely believed to have been murdered by mobsters.

Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Jeffrey Benkoe

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