World Bank study recommends steps on barriers to stolen asset recovery

By Lawrence Quartey

Posted on June 23, 2011 16:35

A study by the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative, a joint project of the World Bank and the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), has recommended key policy actions for countries to prevent corrupt officials from re-appropriating already stolen assets.

The report, released in Ghana on Wednesday June 22, 2011, urges national policy makers to implement new policies and operational procedures in order to foster better collaboration in the tracking and recovery of stollen assets across multiple jurisdictions, many of which may lack the necessary resources to accomplish these goals on their own.

The study comes at a time when recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa are questioning the capacity of financial centres to stop the flow of resources generated by corruption. StAR therefore encourages countries to implement legislative reforms to facilitate the freezing and confiscation of stolen assets. The new procedures would enhance existing anti-money laundering measures.

To foster trust and communication among asset recovery practitioners, and to bolster their expertise, the study also recommends significant efforts to train investigators, investigative magistrates, prosecutors, and judges on the international standards, various tools, and actual case experience relevant to asset recovery.

The StAR study further says that jurisdictions must be significantly improved in order to expedite international Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) procedures necessary to streamline the exchange of evidence in preparing possible prosecution against offenses related to the stealing of assets.

Spoils resulting from crime, corruption, and tax evasion, the study says, are estimated to represent between US$1 trillion and US$1.6 trillion annually, with half coming from developing countries. These estimates, however, do not capture the societal costs of corruption and the devastating impacts of such crimes on victim countries.

StAR officials estimate that only US$5 billion in stolen assets have been repatriated over the past 15 years.

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