NAPCO Board Chair teaches in Saudi Arabia

Last year, Judge John J. Russo received an invitation from King Saud University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to teach a course in basic criminology. In narrowing the topic to an issue that would be helpful to the Saudis, given the differences in U.S. and Saudi justice systems, he settled on a program focused on financial crime. He turned to the Egmont Group, which facilitates and prompts the exchange of information, knowledge, and cooperation amongst member financial intelligence units worldwide. With their help, he was able to structure a course.

He traveled to Riyadh, the capitol of Saudi Arabia, in January 2023, and spent two weeks teaching at the Nayif College for Security Sciences, presenting to the Financial Investigation Unit of the Kingdom’s Law Enforcement Agency. Along with the Saudis, there were representatives from other nations, including Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar in attendance at the sessions. Administered by McDonnell-Nadeau Consultants, a company who, in their own words, is “…dedicated to helping both governments and the private sector combat financial crime including money laundering and terrorist financing through strategic advice, practical guidance, technical expertise and supportive technology,” the course looked at the basic criminology of money laundering and terrorism financing from both theoretical and empirical perspectives.

“I arrived not knowing what to expect, and I was treated like a visiting dignitary,” Judge Russo said. “The classes were well received, and I hope I was able to give them an overview of how our legal system operates in regard to financial crimes.”

Judge Russo admits it wasn’t easy. A seasoned law school instructor, he found that delays for translations did not match his usual rapid, interactive teaching style. But once he and his translators found a rhythm, he was able to get across the information he had prepared.

What he wasn’t prepared for was how hospitable the Saudis and the host team would be. “They were warm, engaging, and very respectful of my sharing how our western judicial system functions.”

Judge Russo has been asked to teach again, and is considering a return visit. “I think the Saudis are making progress on a number of issues, and I’ll be interested to see what happens over the next five or six years,” he added. “I do think it’s important to pass along our expertise. The American justice system, for all its flaws, is the best in the world, and I am proud to share what we do.”

Judge John J. Russo is a trial court Judge in the Common Pleas Court in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio. He has been on the bench for 18 years and has served as the Court’s Administrative / Presiding Judge from 2014-19. Currently, he is the Chairperson of the NAPCO Board of Directors.