The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, in collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, SDC, recently organized an international Expert Meeting on the Management and Disposal of recovered and returned stolen assets. It took place from the 14th – 16th February 2017 at the United Nations Conference Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The purpose of the workshop was to:
- Explore the different approaches which have been applied by countries in the management of recovered and returned assets;
- Determine the underlying rationale as well as advantages and disadvantages of these different approaches;
- Assess whether there are any good practices emerging based on past experience.
The international community has recognized the damaging effects of corruption on development in an unprecedented manner in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and has included Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 which requires States to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”1, through reducing illicit financial flows, strengthening the recovery and return of stolen assets, substantially reducing bribery and corruption, and developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.
Furthermore, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development2 (Addis Ababa, 13-16 July 2015) supports the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) of the United Nations and the World Bank, and other international initiatives that support the recovery of stolen assets and further encourages the international community to develop good practices on asset return.
Chapter V, Article 51 of UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) establishes the recovery and return of the proceeds of corruption as a “fundamental principle” of the Convention and stipulates that States parties shall afford one another the widest measure of cooperation and assistance in that regard (article 51). In its article 57, it establishes that in cases of embezzlement of public funds or of the laundering of embezzled public funds, pursuant to Article 55, and on the basis of a final judgment obtained by the requesting country, confiscated funds should be returned to the requesting state party. Whereas for the proceeds of other offences, a differentiating regime regarding the return of confiscated property, upon the receipt of a final judgment, takes into account factors of prior ownership, the recognition of damage to a requesting state party and the recognition of victims of the crime for which the assets were confiscated has been adopted taking into account damages, prior ownership and victims.
At its 5th session the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption adopted resolution 5/3 on “Facilitating international cooperation in asset recovery” which, inter alia, “encourages States parties and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to share experience on the management, use and disposal of frozen, seized and confiscated assets, and to identify best practices as necessary, building upon existing resources that address the administration of seized assets, and to consider developing non-binding guidelines on this issue”.
Moreover, at its 6th session, the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption adopted resolution 6/3 on “Fostering effective asset recovery” which “encourages States parties and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to continue sharing experience and building knowledge on the management, use and disposal of frozen, seized, confiscated and recovered assets, and to identify good practices as necessary, building upon existing resources that address the administration of seized and confiscated assets, including with a view to contributing to sustainable development”.
A high-powered delegation represented the Federal government of Nigeria to include the Honourable Minister of Justice and AGF of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFCC, Ibrahim Magu, Special Assistant to the President on Anti-Corruption, Juliet Ibekaku, Director International and Comparative Law, Stella Anukam, Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption, PACAC Prof Bolaji Owasanoye. The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, represented by its Executive Director the Rev David Ugolor was on the Federal Government delegation as a key CSO which has contributed significantly to asset recovery and management in Nigeria.
AGENDA AND ORGANIZATION OF WORK FOR THE EXPERT MEETINGS
First Session: Current state of the international debate on the management of recovered and returned assets at the international level
Second Session: Relevance of Asset Return to implementing the SDG’s
Moderator: Belachew Gutulo (Ethiopia)
Panellists: Peter Chowla (UNDESA Financing for Development Office); Mohamed Omar Gad (Egypt); Marianne Loe (Norway); H.E. Eugenio Maria Curia (Argentina) Facilitators/Rapporteurs: Salome Steib (Switzerland) ; Shervin Majlessi (StAR).
- Management of seized and confiscated assets pending return
- Practical modalities for the return and disposal of assets
- Case-specific agreements or mutually acceptable arrangements for the final disposal of confiscated property, Art. 57 V UNCAC
- Use of settlements and their implications on the recovery and return of stolen assets
Moderator: Jean-Michel Verelst (Belgium)
Panellists: Lucio Alves Angelo Junior (Brazil); Anatole Yezhov (Ukraine); Francesco Puleio and Giovanni Tartaglia (Italy); Engels Jiménez (Costa Rica) Facilitators/Rapporteurs: Elsa Gopala Krishnan (StAR) ; Shervin Majlessi (StAR).
Use of returned assets to compensate victims and support the sustainable development goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda?
Moderator: Phil Mason (UK)
Panellists: Nicole Ruder (Switzerland); Rodrigo Garza (Mexico); Angela Ponce (Philippines) Facilitators/Rapporteurs: Salome Steib (Switzerland) ; Elsa Gopala Krishnan (StAR); Simona Schreier (UNODC).
Conclusions and the way forward
Panellists: Switzerland, Ethiopia, Belgium, Argentina, Nigeria, Independent expert, UK, ICAR, StAR. The moderators of the sessions each with a five minute summing up of their sessions with salient points. Facilitators/Rapporteurs: Salome Steib (Switzerland) ; Brigitte Strobel-Shaw (UNODC).
Below is a panorama of that auspicious event: