World Bank and UNODC to Pursue Stolen Asset Recovery

17 September 2007 - The World Bank, in partnership with UNODC, launched today an initiative to help developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders, help invest them in effective development programs and combat safe havens internationally.

"This Initiative will foster much needed cooperation between developed and developing countries and between the public and private sectors to ensure that looted assets are returned to their rightful owners," said the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, during the official launch of the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative.

"There should be no safe haven for those who steal from the poor," said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. "Helping developing countries recover the stolen money will be key to fund social programs and put corrupt leaders on notice that they will not escape the law."

The Executive Director of the UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, described the launch of the StAR Initiative as a "turning point in the global fight against corruption". He said that "from now on it should be harder for kleptocrats to steal the public's money, and easier for the public to get its money back."

According to the document, Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative: Challenges, Opportunities, and Action Plan, released today, the cross-border flow of the global proceeds from criminal activities, corruption, and tax evasion is estimated at between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion per year.

Even a portion of recovered assets could provide much-needed funding for social programs or badly needed infrastructure. Every $100 million recovered could fund full immunizations for 4 million children, provide water connections for some 250,000 households, or fund treatment for over 600,000 people with HIV/AIDS for a full year.

In order to prevent and resolve the problem of stolen assets, StAR operates on the premise that both developed and developing countries must work in partnership. While developing countries need to improve governance and accountability, developed nations should also stop providing a safe heaven for stolen proceeds.

StAR calls for the ratification by all countries of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) - something that only half of the OECD and G-8 countries have done. In addition, a collective effort with multilateral and bilateral agencies, as well as with civil society and the private sector, is essential.

Concrete actions of the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative include:

  • Build institutional capacity in developing countries for requesting technical assistance to strengthen their prosecuting agencies and bring their laws to be in compliance with UNCAC;
  • Strengthen the integrity of financial markets. This will include bringing financial centers into compliance with anti-money laundering legislation that would detect and deter laundering of illicit proceeds and strengthen the capacity of financial intelligence units around the world to enhance cooperation between them.
  • Assist the asset recovery process of developing countries by providing them loans or grants to finance the start up costs, provide advice on hiring legal counsel, and facilitate cooperation between countries.
  • Monitor the use of recovered assets so that repatriated funds are used for development purposes, such as social programs, better education and infrastructure.

In order to strengthen the collective effort to prevent and tackle the problem of stolen assets, monitor progress and provide advice, the initiative will be under the guidance of Friends of StAR, a group composed of influential individuals from developed and developing countries.

StAR "Challenges, Opportunities and Action Plan" report available here.

StAR Fact Sheet available here.