Press statement from a coalition of Civil Society Organisations at the first Global Asset Recovery Forum (GFAR) in Washington DC, 4-6th December 2017
Washington DC, 6 December 2017 – In a statement delivered at the closing plenary of the first ever Global Forum on Asset Recovery that ends today, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) welcomed the political will generated by the Forum to improve asset recovery efforts but called for governments to do more and be more transparent.
Approximately 30 CSO representatives participated in the Global Forum on Asset Recovery, most of them from the four focus countries – Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Ukraine – as well as a few representatives of international civil society groups.
CSOS attending the forum applauded the breakthrough in Switzerland’s return of assets to Nigeria with the landmark proposal for civil society involvement in monitoring the funds returned.
“The MOU between Switzerland and Nigeria recognizes the key role of civil society organisations and is a distinctive departure from the past practice of government-to-government agreements which resulted in re-looting of recovered funds,” said Olanrewaju Suraju, of HEDA Resource Centre in Nigeria.
According to the coalition, the Global Forum was useful for encouraging discussions between law enforcement agencies on concrete cases.
However, in its statement the coalition criticized governments for the serious lack of information on how many stolen assets have been identified and seized.
“While conscious of the sensitivity of investigations, the lack of even basic information about asset recovery activities from governments is a serious failure of accountability which prevents the monitoring of effectiveness and crucially impairs trust,” said Asoka Obeyesekere from Transparency International Sri Lanka.
In eight country studies, CSOs found that relevant information was unavailable. In some countries, such as Ukraine, court decisions on confiscation of proceeds of corruption have been classified as state secrets. The coalition called for transparency commitments by all countries present at the GFAR, and urged them to set up databases with comprehensive asset recovery data.
The coalition faulted financial centres – including the forum’s co-hosts US and UK – for not going far enough to clamp down on those who help launder funds out of the developing world, such as financial institutions, property managers and lawyers. The coalition urged countries that have not yet done so to introduce public registers of beneficial ownership and to take action against those who help the corrupt hide away their stolen wealth.
“Currently laundering funds out of our countries is far too easy; recovering the assets far too difficult” said Daria Kaleniuk of Anti-Corruption Centre in Ukraine.
CSOs from the four focus countries made specific recommendations to individual governments in country assessment reports prepared especially for GFAR. They called for:
- national law enforcement agencies engaged in asset recovery to be properly resourced and coordinated;
- for the Prosecutor General Office to stop harassing new anti-corruption investigative bodies (Ukraine);
- for anti-corruption agencies to end restrictive information-sharing provisions between the anti-corruption agencies (Sri Lanka);
- for the creation of a new commission to work on asset recovery in Tunisia, where the former commission ran out of mandate in 2015; and
- for adoption of comprehensive asset recovery legislation (Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Nigeria).
“This forum is a major opportunity to generate political will to push for greater asset recovery for countries like ours. We hope our governments do not squander it,” said Youssef Belgacem from Iwatch in Tunisia.
For press-comments please contact:
Nigeria: Olanrewaju Suraju, email@example.com, +234-8033044617
Sri-Lanka: Asoka Obeyesekere, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tunisia: Youssef Belgacem, email@example.com
Ukraine: Daria Kaleniuk, firstname.lastname@example.org, +380988216110
NOTE: The Global Forum on Asset Recovery, being held in Washington DC from 4-6th of December 2017, seeks to provide international assistance on stolen asset recovery to four countries specifically, – Sri-Lanka, Tunisia, Ukraine and Nigeria. This statement builds on the work of the UNCAC Coalition Working Group. The CSOs involved include:
African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Nigeria
Human and Environmental Development Agency (HEDA), Nigeria
African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, (Centre LSD), Nigeria
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), NIgeria
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Nigeria
Nigerian Network on Stolen Asset (NNSA), Nigeria
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria,
Policy Alert, Nigeria
Anti-Corruption Centre (ANTAC), Ukraine
White Collar Hundred, Ukraine
Transparency Sri Lanka,
Campaign For Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), Sri Lanka
Civil Society Forum on Asset Recovery (CIFAR), EU
International State Crime Initiative