Transparency International and its Middle East and North Africa chapters and partners today said the lack of final and enforceable sentences from national courts against the people involved in stealing assets has greatly slowed the return of these assets.
Instead of having the money returned to the national balance sheets to help build schools, hospitals and improve the lives of those hurt most by the corrupt people who embezzled the money in the first place, billions of dollars of stolen assets linger in foreign bank accounts, the group said in a statement follows the Fourth Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR4) held in Hammamet, Tunisia.
Despite annual meetings, the work of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery continues to revolve around theoretical approaches instead of practical mechanisms to recover the ill-gotten assets. This undermines the potential results that the yearly forums could have.
At the Tunisia meeting Transparency International, its chapters and partners reiterated the importance of regular commitments by G7 countries and concerned Middle East and North African governments to hold Arab Forum on Asset Recovery on a yearly basis and to involve civil society in the discussions.
The Transparency International group, however, said the current process of asset recovery has not met the expectations of the Arab Spring countries since its initiation in 2012. The lack of rulings from national courts has failed to provide receiving countries with strong legal basis to repatriate stolen assets.
Unfortunately involving civil society in the AFAR forum has not translated into a practical mechanism in the Arab States. The weakness in trust between civil society and state institutions persists amid a lack of understanding of civil society’s role in asset recovery by all Arab government representatives.
Accordingly, the above group proposes the following steps to Arab governments for the achievement of substantial progress in the asset recovery portfolio up to AFAR 5 in 2016:
1. Develop national asset recovery plans with clear priorities and time-bound measurable results
2. Establish a mechanism for civil society and governments to share information including the identification of a focal point from the governments
3. Start multi-stakeholders’ consultations that include civil society, on accountable and transparent mechanisms to manage returned assets
4. Close legal loopholes in asset declaration, beneficial ownership, illicit enrichment and conflict of interest; find legal solutions to ensure that statutes of limitation do not run out before cases are concluded.
5. In cases where settlements on stolen assets are pursued, the process, the terms and the justifications must be made public to avoid impunity for corruption crimes or interference with the judiciary for the sake of economic benefits.
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