Corruption aggravates inequality and injustice, and undermines stability, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions.

—Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, UNODC

Frequently Asked Questions

What does StAR do?

The Initiative helps countries fight grand-scale corruption, especially the theft of public assets by senior government officials and their collaborators. The program supports efforts to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of corruption and to confiscate ill-gotten gains stashed in foreign countries by corrupt officials.

Why does StAR matter for development?

StAR is the main international initiative that focuses solely on asset recovery. StAR is critical to making sure that asset recovery remains high on the international agenda and providing the needed tools to countries willing to pursue asset recovery. Asset recovery matters because depriving corrupt officials from their ill-gotten gains is a significant deterrent. Additionally, recovering even a reasonable portion of the $40 billion stolen assets would make a huge difference for developing countries.

What are examples of asset recoveries?
  • In the past 21 years, the Philippines has recovered more than US$1 billion of money, mostly from Switzerland, stolen by Ferdinand Marcos.
  • By 2007, Peru had recovered over US$174 million, from jurisdictions such as Switzerland, Cayman Islands and the United States, stolen by Vladimiro Montesinos.
  • To date, US$700 million of money stolen by Sani Abacha, has been frozen and forfeited by Swiss authorities and has been returned to Nigeria.
  • In 2006 and 2007, British and South African authorities helped Nigeria recover US$17.7 million of the illicit gains obtained by Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa state.
How much money has been recovered?

StAR estimates that US$5 billion has been recovered in the period 1995 to 2010.

How much money has StAR recovered?

International asset recovery is undertaken by countries using legal procedures. This usually entails legal cooperation between two national authorities. StAR is not a party to this process. StAR cannot investigate cases, prosecute cases or request mutual legal assistance. However, StAR can facilitate the work of national authorities by providing technical assistance, advisory services, training and acting as a facilitator in international cooperation.

In what ways can StAR help interested countries?

StAR helps through capacity building and practical assistance to countries engaged in asset recovery, and by acting as a facilitator between the parties engaged in international cooperation. StAR brings expertise focused on assisting in international cooperation on actual cases. It also assists in having the right policies and institutions in place for successful asset recovery: anti-money laundering, transparency and the lifting of banking secrecy, integrity of public service (financial disclosure) and preventive measures in the financial sector.

Does StAR have methods for identifying when asset recovery cases are being brought for political reasons?

Much of StAR’s assistance is geared to the development of national authorities’ capability to pursue asset recovery cases in general, and so is not, as such,` tied to specific cases. However, StAR recognizes that the criminal justice system of any country can be abused for political purposes, and that those accused of corruption may claim that their accusers are politically motivated. In order to mitigate these risks, StAR undertakes a baseline assessment in all of the countries where StAR provides assistance, reviewing the institutional, legal and policy context for asset recovery.

Does StAR become involved in cases against sitting politicians?

StAR supports national authorities in the implementation of their asset recovery programs. The decision as to whether to prosecute elected officials and seek to recover the proceeds of this corruption lies with the national authorities. Prosecution of elected officials may present challenges where these officials enjoy immunity. However, immunity can be waived, allowing prosecution either at home or abroad. Furthermore, immunity will often not extend to property registered in the names of third parties. In some jurisdictions it may be possible to pursue asset recovery without a parallel prosecution or conviction of the official.

How long does it usually take to resolve asset recovery cases?

Asset recovery is a lengthy legal process that may take up to six years from the launch of investigations to the judgment confiscating and returning the stolen assets. However, there are cases that last much longer.  The "value chain" of asset recovery highlights the various steps necessary for successful return of assets and how StAR can assit stakeholders.

What is being done to ensure that recovered assets are not just siphoned off again through corrupt acts?

The use of returned assets is the sovereign decision of the country that recovers its stolen property. Countries that have embraced a policy of openness and transparency in the design of the arrangements for the management of returned assets have benefited from this approach. Countries that have put in place specific mechanisms for the management of returned assets include Philippines, Peru and Nigeria. StAR and the World Bank Group advise on and assist national authorities, where requested by them, with the management of returned assets.

What tools does StAR offer?

Advocacy and knowledge generation were at the top of the StAR agenda when it was launched. StAR continues to offer knowledge, expertise and advice to help countries recover stolen assets. Examples of such contributions include: 'The Asset Recovery Handbook' that provides practitioners with a how-to guide for recovering stolen assets; the 'Barriers to Stolen Asset Recovery' report for policy makers on reforms enabling the recovery of stolen assets; and a policy paper on 'Politically Exposed Persons'. A full list of StAR publications can be found here on our website.

Since the spring of 2011, StAR has rebalanced its activities and work program towards prioritizing engagement in countries, fostering in-country capability to lauch and persue asset recovery proceedings, as well as to assist and advise in the context of actual cases.