Illicit enrichment is criminalized under Article 20 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which defines it as the “significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.” Illicit enrichment is also prescribed as an offense in the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (IACAC) and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) under comparable definitions. Despite such broad international recognition, the criminalization of illicit enrichment is not universally accepted as an anticorruption measure. Instead, it continues to generate extensive debate and controversy.
Against this background and based on country experience, this study aims to analyze how the criminalization of illicit enrichment works and to shed light on its contributions to the fight against corruption and the recovery of stolen assets. This study does not delve deeply into the theoretical debates around illicit enrichment, but instead analyzes practice, case law, and the literature to add new perspective to the ongoing discussions.
This study does not seek to recommend or oppose the adoption of particular illicit enrichment provisions. Rather, it aims to assist jurisdictions that are considering such steps by highlighting key questions that might arise during implementation, including how states define and enforce the offense. Similarly, this study does not endorse or criticize any practice carried out by states in implementing the criminalization of illicit enrichment. Ultimately, it seeks to provide useful information for policy makers and practitioners as well as for upcoming discussions of the Conference of State Parties of the UNCAC and its working groups