Ronald K. Noble is secretary-general of Interpol,
the world’s largest international police organiza-
tion, with 188 member countries. Created in
1923, it facilitates cross-border police coopera-
tion, and supports all organizations that prevent
or combat international crime. It has been espe-
cially active in the face of rising threats from ter-
rorism, cyber-crime, international drug traffick-
ing, and corruption. Nine years ago, Noble was
elected the seventh secretary-general—the first
American to hold this position. Previously, he
served as under secretary for enforcement of the
Treasury Department, in charge of the U.S.
Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
and Firearms, and numerous other agencies. Ear-
lier, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney and
deputy assistant attorney general. Noble spoke by
telephone from Interpol’s general secretariat head-
quarters in Lyons, France with
editor David A. Andelman and Euro-
pean reporter Charlotte Pudlowski in Paris.
WORLD POLICY JOURNAL
the uniquely global perspective of Interpol,
do you see much change—up or down—in
the scope, the reach, or the frequency of
corruption? And, is there a chicken and egg
syndrome when it comes to the nexus of
corruption and crime?
RONALD K. NOBLE
secretary-general for about nine years and,
from the beginning, corruption has always
been a problem. There’s certainly a height-
ened media focus on the issue, and Interpol
is also paying greater attention to the
problem than when I first began my term.
About the chicken or the egg: from my
perspective, I see corruption often linked to
otherwise legitimate business activity, not
pure criminal conduct. But one begets the
other. The more lucrative a contract, the
more urgent the need to fill this contract;
the more government officials with discre-
tionary powers to decide on whether or not
this contract should be filled and by whom,
the greater the likelihood of corruption.
Because there has been a greater movement
of products—a greater movement of people
—over the years, there have been greater
opportunities for corruption. You’re doing
business in my country, you want to pass
my border, you want to get a license, get a
variance, or whatever.
..if I have discretionary
power as a government official, it’s an
opportunity for me to make money.
But in the Western world, and in
many other developed countries, that would
be considered a crime, right?
Economic Co-operation and Development]
and others have been trying to get more
countries to make it a crime to bribe a
The World’s Top Cop
A Talk with Ronald K. Noble
© 2010 World Policy Institute