The World Bank (WB) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) released on Wednesday a study on the process and pitfalls of stolen asset recoveries.
Entitled 'Barriers to Asset Recovery', it aims to advise policy makers on reforms that will enable the recovery of stolen assets.
“The international community cannot stand idly by and allow corrupt leaders to engage in such criminal conduct with impunity or to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth,” says the report from the international organisations, which operated -- and indeed still operate -- with dictatorships around the world.
The organisations do not, however, blame themselves for helping facilitate corruption, nor do they call for a revision of World Bank policies.
The study estimates the annual global proceeds of crime, corruption and tax evasion are between US$1 trillion and $1.6 trillion, with half the figure coming from developing countries.
Only $5 billion in stolen assets has been repatriated over the past 15 years.
The study acknowledges that once assets have left the jurisdiction of their point of origin they can be difficult to locate before they are moved to yet another jurisdiction or dispersed. It says that this is possible due to many deficiencies in the legislations and procedures which reflect an overall lack of political will.
To improve the situation, the study makes 8 recommendations; the first is simply to adopt a strategic plan, which means prioritising asset recovery cases and devoting sufficient resources to them. Creating mutual trust and collaborating with other jurisdictions is also very important to speed money recovery, it says.
Legislative reforms are recommended too, specifically ones that increase the abilities of authorities to restrain and confiscate stolen assets and provides mutual legal assistance between jurisdictions.
Allowing the rapid tracing and temporary freezing or seizing of assets before receiving a formal mutual legal assistance was also recommended to stop money being quickly dispersed.
In the Egyptian case, the inefficiency of such legislation and the complexity of the procedures allowed many officials suspected of suspicion to successfully transfer money and liquidate their assets, the report said.
Also, before requesting legal assistance from outside, properly applying domestic tools like anti-money laundering can help. Authorities in Egypt can use pre-existent cheap, easy and effective methods if they are really willing to recover stolen assets, the report concludes.