International Expert Meeting on the return of stolen assets

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7-9 May 2019

Experts discuss the return of stolen assets – good practices and challenges

As the first global anti-corruption instrument with a dedicated chapter on asset recovery, the United Nations Convention against Corruption sets the bar high when it comes to ensuring that stolen assets are being returned.

Invited by the Governments of Ethiopia and Switzerland, experts from all over the world gathered in Addis Ababa from 7 to 9 May 2019 to learn from cases in which assets were returned to the States that they had been stolen from. In his opening remarks, Wedo Atto, Deputy Commissioner of the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of Ethiopia, highlighted the importance of cooperation: "Asset recovery is difficult and demanding, and international cooperation is essential for succeeding in recovering assets stolen through corruption. Meetings such as the present one take us one step forward to ensuring that there are no safe havens for unlawful wealth."

Panellists shared their experience in recovering and returning hundreds of millions of US dollars of stolen assets and discussed the challenges and good practices discovered through these returns. The cases from which lessons were drawn included the Lava Jato case in Brazil, the return of assets stolen by former President Sani Abacha to Nigeria, the return of stolen assets to Kazakhstan, and the return of assets to Kenya through a multi-party framework for the return of assets from Crime and Corruption in Kenya (FRACCK).

Drawing on lessons learned from these and other cases, the experts highlighted good practices in asset return such as having early and open communication between the requesting and requested States, building trust among the partners and understanding the differences in legal systems and domestic requirements when it comes to asset recovery and asset return. The experts also underscored the need to provide technical assistance and training to enable countries to fully use all available options for asset recovery and asset return. Shervin Majlessi, Deputy Coordinator of the joint World Bank/UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, highlighted how these good practices complemented the Lausanne guidelines for the efficient recovery of stolen assets, which provide a step-by-step guide for a collaborative process of asset recovery.

As part of their conclusions, the experts also found that more discussion on the matter during the sessions of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Asset Recovery would be helpful. In closing, Walter Reithebuch, Senior Policy Advisor – Anti-Corruption and Asset Recovery at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, noted: "As co-organizer of the International Expert Meeting on the Return of Stolen Assets in Addis Ababa, Switzerland was pleased to welcome experts from over 30 different countries for constructive discussions and exchanges on best practices on asset return. Switzerland is committed to enhancing international cooperation in asset return and to sharing and further developing these best practices."

In order to link the two agendas and constituencies, the meeting brought together asset recovery experts and development practitioners from around the world to explore the different approaches which have been applied by countries in the management of recovered assets and to examine how returned assets could be utilized to achieve the SDGs and the Addis Agenda.

Event details and presentations


▪ Welcome remarks by Mr. Wedo Atto, Deputy Commissioner, FEACC
▪ Welcome remarks by H.E. Mr. Daniel Hunn, Ambassador of Switzerland to Ethiopia
▪ Welcome remarks by Ms. Brigitte Strobel-Shaw, UNODC
▪ Tour de table
▪ Introduction of participants and group photo

Session I: State of Knowledge

Moderator: Brigitte Strobel-Shaw, UNODC

Panelists: Felipe Falconi and Sophie Meingast (UNODC); Elsa Gopala-Krishnan (StAR); Kellen McClure (United States of America)

Elsa Gopala-Krishnan, State of Knowledge
Kellen McClure, A Framework for coordination and cooperation in asset return

Session II: Asset recovery and international cooperation: obstacles and innovative ways of overcoming them

This session addressed the main challenges encountered when recovering assets, in particular through international cooperation, including the need to:
1. Commence open dialogue on issues related to asset recovery and international cooperation at the earliest opportunity; and
2. Establish strong partnerships between transferring and receiving countries.

Moderator: Walter Reithebuch (Switzerland)

Panellists: Laure du Castillon (Belgium); Jeffrey Simser (Canada); Shervin Majlessi (StAR)

Shervin Majlessi,Lausanne Guidelines
Jeffrey Simser, Asset Recovery: Common Obstacles and International Cooperation

Session III: Options available for asset return

This session covered the different avenues available for asset return and address the importance of taking into account the specificities of each case in selecting the appropriate avenue. The issue of transparency and accountability in the asset return process and the use of case-specific instruments were also highlighted.

Moderator: Sophie Meingast (UNODC)
Panellists: Elsa Gopala-Krishnan (StAR); Richard Messick (UNODC); Paul Kadushi (United Republic of Tanzania); Ladidi Bara’atu Mohammed (Nigeria); Simon Kürsener (Switzerland); Indira Konjhodzic (World Bank)

Simon Kürsener, The Abacha II Case: a successful tripartite cooperation of asset return the Swiss Perspective
Paul Kadushi, Transparency and Accountability in the Asset Recovery Process: Tanzanian Perspective
Richard Messick, Trends in Asset Returns International Expert Meeting on the Return of Stolen Assets
Indira Konjhodzic, World Bank Monitoring Role in the Return of Stolen Funds to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Session IV: Asset recovery – innovative tools and possible contributions towards the Sustainable Development Goals

This session focused on how innovative tools can facilitate asset recovery and how asset recovery and asset return can contribute to work towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Moderator: Mohammed Moneer Wahba (Egypt)
Panellists: Allan Edward Hernández Portillo (El Salvador); Shan Ao (China); Hazel Stevens (United Kingdom); Shane Nainappan (International Centre for Asset Recovery)

Shan Ao, China’s Special Confiscation Procedure: Rules and Practice
Allan Edward Hernández Portillo, Acción de extinción de dominio en El Salvador
Shane Nainappan, Asset Recovery supports Sustainable Development Goals “a symbiotic relationship”
Hazel Stevens, Unexplained Wealth Orders and the UK Criminal Finances Act 2017

Session V: Case examples and practical experiences

This session focused on the different avenues used for asset return in specific cases, highlighting how recovered assets were used for:
1. the benefit of the public harmed by the underlying corrupt conduct; and
2. combating corruption, repairing the damage done by corruption, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Furthermore, the session examined the methods used to:
1. ensure that recovered assets do not benefit persons involved in the commission of the underlying offence; and
2. promote the participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, as appropriate.

Moderator: Shervin Majlessi (StAR)
Panellists: Maryann Njau Kimani (Kenya); Tom LeFeuvre (Jersey); Priscila de Castro Busnello (Brazil); Oleksandr Skomarov (Ukraine); Ana Teresa Revilla Vergara (Peru); Damirzhan Dauken (Kazakhstan); Teresa Turner Jones (United States of America)

Tom LeFeuvre, Cooperation on asset recovery: FRACCK
Priscila de Castro Busnello, Case examples and practical experiences
Ana Teresa Revilla Vergara, Peru: Restitution of assets.Regulation, Actions and Cases
Oleksandr Skomarov, Identifying and Seizing of Assets Abroad. Interaction with International Organizations in the Search for Assets. Experience of Ukraine
Teresa Turner Jones
Damirzhan Dauken, Stolen Asset Recovery: Experience of Kazakhstan

Break-out groups: Towards good practices on asset return

The participants reviewed the outcome of the previous sessions in light of their experience in group sessions. On this basis, the participants developed elements for good practices on asset return.

Session VI: Towards good practices on asset return

Presentation of outcome of group discussions and consolidation of results.

Moderator: Brigitte Strobel-Shaw (UNODC)

Conclusion and way forward

This session focused on areas that require further knowledge and capacity-building and potential next steps.

Closing remarks by Host