Returning stolen assets more efficiently – international experts meet in Switzerland

Bern, 28.01.2014 - At Switzerland's invitation, around 90 international investigators and prosecutors from 30 countries and specialist international organisations met from 26 to 28 January 2014 in Lausanne. Ten years after the adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption, they discussed how "potentates' assets" can be identified and returned to the country of origin more efficiently. The participants also held numerous bilateral meetings in the margins of the event to discuss current asset recovery cases, including those relating to Arab spring countries.

Ten years after adopting the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), countries have made progress in fighting corruption; however, translating international norms into practice remains a major challenge. Since the Arab spring, the public has developed a particularly keen interest in the return of stolen assets, i.e. assets illegally obtained by senior public officials, members of government and their entourages. For the concerned countries’ development and political stability the return of these assets is critical. However, the process of locating and returning such assets is difficult. The assets are often invested through complex corporate structures and moved through a variety of financial centres with a view to disguising their illicit origin. Processing these complex cases of financial crime places high demands on the authorities of the states involved, as well as presenting a challenge to modern financial centres such as Switzerland. That is why over the past few years Switzerland and other countries have developed comprehensive practices aimed at more efficient asset recovery.

The UN General Assembly in New York and the Conference of States Parties to the UNCAC both recently adopted a mandate to develop guidelines for efficient asset recovery based on the practical experience that has been gathered so far. With a view to fulfilling this mandate and identifying key practices that make asset recovery more efficient, Switzerland, together with its partners from the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) and the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative of the World Bank, organised a seminar from 26–28 January 2014 in Lausanne: the seminar was attended by around 90 experts from 30 countries and international organisations. As stipulated by the UN mandate, the draft guidelines to be developed at the Lausanne seminar will in a next step be presented at international forums in order to develop a global consensus on these practices with a view to supporting effective implementation of the UNCAC.

The conference is the eighth in a series of "Lausanne Seminars" launched by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in 2001 on the issue of asset recovery. One of the central issues of the conference is strengthening the dialogue between countries that are affected by corruption, and those that harbour stolen assets. An active policy on returning these assets is one of the key instruments Switzerland can use to fight international economic and financial crime and protect the reputation of its financial centre. The Lausanne Seminars also offer the opportunity to hold numerous bilateral meetings in the margins of the conference to discuss ongoing asset recovery cases, an opportunity that was keenly used by participants, in particular from Arab spring countries.


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