World Bank and UNODC release guide to recover looted funds

StAR logo5 May 2009 - The World Bank and UNODC released a new guide yesterday to help States recover looted funds even when there has not been a conviction for the crime.

The publication Stolen Asset Recovery: A Good Practices Guide for Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture was produced under the auspices of the joint World Bank-UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative to end impunity for corruption worldwide.

"Asset recovery can be a lengthy, expensive and unpredictable process. Innovative approaches are needed to facilitate asset recovery and improve the prospects of success," said Theodore S. Greenberg, the World Bank's senior financial specialist and co-author of the Guide.  "Non-conviction based asset forfeiture is an innovation that can be adapted to the needs of a wide range of countries with differing legal traditions. The Guide explains how they can make use of this tool in their asset recovery programmes."

Non-conviction based asset forfeiture is a legal regime that provides for the seizure and forfeiture (recovery) of the proceeds of serious crime, including corruption, without the need for a criminal conviction. It is often the only option available for Governments when the corrupt official or the person paying the bribe is dead, has fled the jurisdiction, is immune from prosecution or is too powerful to prosecute - all common in cases of grand corruption.

A growing number of jurisdictions have established a system to allow non-conviction based asset forfeiture, which has also been recommended as a tool in the United Nations Convention against Corruption. UNODC is the guardian of this Convention.

The result of collaboration between experts from 17 countries governed by civil and common law, the Guide identifies the key legal, operational and practical concepts that should be included in non-conviction based asset forfeiture regimes. The book provides case studies from Colombia, Ireland, Kuwait, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom (Guernsey) and useful tools, such as samples of investigative and court forms and pre-seizure planning guidelines. Additional country information and new cases will be added to the Guide on the StAR initiative website.

The StAR initiative was launched in September 2007 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick and UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. It emphasizes that developed and developing countries share a joint responsibility in tackling corruption and that international collaboration and collective action are needed to facilitate asset recovery and prevent asset theft.