UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNODC Executive Director Fedotov highlight importance of returning stolen assets at UN General Assembly event

The StAR Initiative organized a side event - “Stolen Asset Recovery Dialogue” - at the UN headquarters focused on improving international cooperation in asset recovery. A video recording of the event is available below.

In his opening statement at the debate on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that Sustainable Development Goal 16 calls for reducing corruption and bribery and for strengthening the recovery and return of stolen assets. “This”, he said, “is a global appeal for fairness, a collective demand for justice.”

Guterres pointed out that UNCAC has served as an international framework for cooperation to fight corruption for the last 15 years and has achieved “achieved near-global acceptance” with 184 states parties.  The Convention “helps disrupt money laundering and stop the illicit outflow of funds.  It contributes to the return of stolen proceeds from foreign banks, and it enrolls civil society and the private sector as essential partners.”

The UN Secretary-General specifically called attention to the important role taken by African countries in moving this agenda forward, including at the last African union summit and through their anti money laundering efforts. Both Nigeria and Tunisia have recently seen stolen funds returned. 

Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), remarked: “It is hard to believe that just 15 years ago, there was no global instrument to criminalize corruption, fight bribery and recover and return stolen assets. Now, nearly every country in the world has corruption offenses in their books.” 

Fedotov noted that UNCAC is an important complement to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and that effective implementation of UNCAC is also critical for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tackling corruption, he said, “is critical to ensuring access to health care, water, education, and other vital services, protecting forests, oceans, wildlife, and reducing inequalities”. 

Fedotov highlighted the important role of the StAR initiative in implementing chapter 5 of UNCAC on asset recovery and he referenced the MOU signed by Switzerland and Nigeria at GFAR last year over the return of $321 million to Nigeria as an important example of a return of stolen assets. 

The StAR initiative organized a side event at the UN headquarters focused on making progress in international cooperation for the return of proceeds of corruption: “Stolen Asset Recovery Dialogue”. The aim of this debate was to review the substantial progress that has been made in international cooperation and asset recovery since the adoption of the Convention 15 years ago, to identify areas where challenges remain and hinder the full operationalization of the Convention, to highlight the role of different actors and ways to further accelerate the systematic and timely return of stolen assets--all under the framework of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Dimitri Vlassis (Chief, Corruption and Economic Crimes Branch, UNODC) moderated the panel. The panelists were: 

Mr. J.C. Weliamuna, Chairman, Special Presidential Task Force for the Recovery of Illegally Acquired States Assets, Sri Lanka 
Ms. Huguette Labelle, former Chair and current Individual Member and Member of the Advisory Council of Transparency International 
Mr. Akere Muna, Sanctions Commissioner, African Development Bank Group, AU 
Emile Van Der Does De Willebois, Coordinator, StAR Initiative

Full text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks here

More information about the UN event for the 15th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) here

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