In a picturesque setting in Mauritius, a gathering of regional crime-fighting asset recovery practitioners came together from October 11th to 13th for the much-anticipated Annual General Meeting of the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa (ARINSA). Their mission: to ensure that crime does not pay.
Established in 2009, ARINSA was born as an informal network of criminal justice practitioners with a shared vision: to bolster information exchange and collaboration across the Southern and Eastern African regions. Their goal was to strengthen the forfeiture or recovery of assets while tackling the daunting issues of anti-money laundering and the recovery of illicit financial flows from criminal activities. They were not only striving for justice but also contributing to the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 16, which seeks to promote Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This assembly of dedicated professionals comprised member states that spanned across the Southern African region, including Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Facilitating their network's operations are the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa.
In her opening address, Mrs. Carine Charlette-Katinic emphasized the importance of ensuring that our network, ARINSA, continues to grow and evolve. “Today's conference isn't just about teaching; it's a space for collaboration, formation, and knowledge sharing. Criminals have their networks, but we, as law enforcement authorities, possess something even more formidable: Arinsa. It leaves no place for criminals to hide, working tirelessly to bring them to justice and secure our nation's safety and security," she remarked.
In her welcome remarks, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Mauritius, Ms. Lisa Singh, noted that President Carine Charlette, along with her diligent team at the Mauritius Financial Intelligence Unit, had steered ARINSA through an extraordinary year. She observed that “Taking over the presidency during the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, Mauritius had exhibited exemplary leadership. During their tenure, the network underwent a significant transformation, with the revision of the ARINSA manual to streamline procedures and the development of a forward-looking five-year strategic plan that charted the path for regional asset recovery. Nationally, Mauritius also demonstrated remarkable agility in overcoming the Financial Action Task Force's grey listing, a testament to their determination and commitment.”
The Annual General Meeting presented an opportunity for these nations to reflect on their collective progress in the fight against financial crime and asset recovery. Notable achievements were reported for the year 2022, with ARINSA countries initiating 754 fresh anti-money laundering investigations. These endeavors resulted in 1281 cases with new seizures totaling an astounding USD 1,592, 285, 756.57. In addition, the network recorded 644 cases with new forfeiture orders, amounting to USD 45, 896, 014.05. These numbers underscore the dedicated efforts and impact of ARINSA in its crucial mission.
Speaking about the challenges and invaluable lessons learned by ARINSA countries over the past year, on behalf of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Angola, Ms. Cesaltina Matamba shared a remarkable case. In this case, a staggering USD 3.6 billion worth of seized assets was successfully forfeited to the state.
“In this case, a former manager at AAA Insurance Company, a state-owned entity, abused his positions as Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors at AAA. Through fraudulent means, he illicitly acquired control of AAA Insurance Company, siphoning its assets into his possession. Subsequent investigation led to his conviction on charges of embezzlement, tax fraud, and money laundering, resulting in a 10-year prison sentence,” she said.
At the United Nations and beyond, the significance of asset recovery was underscored. It plays a pivotal role in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16(4). The return of unlawfully acquired assets can significantly bolster financing for vital initiatives, from education and healthcare to infrastructure and poverty alleviation. Moreover, it sets the stage for investment and economic growth, ultimately advancing the broader development agenda. Yet, asset recovery continues to be a global challenge, with issues such as the swift movement of illicit funds, complex cross-border transactions, and safe havens persisting.
ARINSA, however, stands as a beacon of hope in overcoming these challenges. Through regional cooperation, information sharing, and capacity-building, they are forging the way for more effective and joint investigations, prosecutions, and, ultimately, asset returns.
Amid the discussions and deliberations, ARINSA's contact points engaged in nine bilateral, case-based discussions, delving into asset recovery, money laundering, and financial crime issues in their respective jurisdictions.
ARINSA also took the opportunity to recognize and applaud countries that excelled in promoting asset recovery during 2022. Awards were bestowed on the following categories:
As the sun set on the final day, it was Zimbabwe's turn to take the helm, with Mr. Chris Mutangadura leading the way. The transition marked another chapter in ARINSA's ongoing journey towards a world where crime indeed does not pay.
The success of the Annual General Meeting was made possible through the generous support of the Mauritius government, the United States State Department, and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom.