Objective

The StAR Asset Recovery Watch is the only public database that tracks efforts by country authorities worldwide to recover and return proceeds of corruption. By collecting and systematizing information about cases involving proceeds of corruption that have an international dimension, the database aims to promote the timely return of stolen assets under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and spur countries to remove barriers to asset recovery.  

The database was compiled and is managed by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, a partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). StAR works with developing countries and financial centers to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of corruption, end safe havens for corrupt funds, and to facilitate more systematic and timely return of stolen assets. More information about StAR is available on our website.

Key goals of this data collection effort are: (1) analysing trends and measuring global progress in asset recoveries under UNCAC, (2) building an evidence base of asset recoveries and returns as a resource for practitioners, (3) promoting transparency and accountability in international asset recovery, in line with GFAR Principle 4 (GFAR Principles for Disposition and Transfer of Confiscated Stolen Assets in Corruption Cases), formulated during the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in 2017

Mandate

The need for better information on the practice of international asset recovery has been repeatedly highlighted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and by its Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Asset Recovery. In addition, this issue is also frequently brought up in expert forums and by civil society organizations.

In the political declaration adopted at the special session against corruption held in June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly emphasized the common commitment of Member States to consolidating and expanding global knowledge and data collection on asset recovery and return through gathering and sharing information on challenges and good practices, as well as on volumes of assets frozen, seized, confiscated and returned in relation to corruption offences, and the number and types of cases, as appropriate, while ensuring the protection of personal data and privacy rights.[1]

The UNCAC Conference of the States Parties welcomed in resolution 8/9 in December 2019 StAR’s effort to update and collect relevant data regarding asset recovery cases, requested the UNODC Secretariat, and invited StAR to collect information from States Parties on international asset recovery cases in relation to offences established in accordance with the Convention, including on volumes of assets frozen, seized, confiscated and returned. This mandate was renewed in 2021 in resolution 9/2.

[1] See General Assembly, ‘Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return to foster sustainable development’, A/RES/77/154, para. 20

How comprehensive is the database?

While the information in the StAR Asset Recovery Watch is the only systematic effort to collect and compile information about international asset recovery cases involving proceeds of corruption, the cases included in the database do not represent a comprehensive accounting of all relevant freezes, confiscations, and returns related to corruption offenses globally.

Not all countries have provided responses to the three questionnaires that were distributed by StAR and UNODC in 2020-23; some countries only included a selection of relevant cases, while other countries informed StAR that they are aware of relevant cases but do not have information available in an appropriate format to complete the questionnaire.

Which types of cases are included in the database?

“International asset recovery” is defined in the broadest possible sense to encompass international transfers of corruption proceeds to another state, prior legitimate owner, or victims harmed by corruption in another state. This includes return mechanisms under UNCAC, Art. 53, measures for direct recovery through civil litigation or court-ordered compensation or damages to a country harmed by corruption, and Art. 57, as well as international returns of proceeds of corruption as part of settlement agreements, asset-sharing agreements, or other scenarios. The reason why such a broad definition was adopted was a desire to capture, to the extent possible, actual practices of international recoveries and returns of proceeds of corruption, rather than limit the scope only to specific confiscation or return mechanisms.

“Proceeds of corruption” is defined as proceeds of crime (“any property derived from or obtained, directly or indirectly, through the commission of an offence”, Art. 2(e) UNCAC) derived from corruption offences in accordance with UNCAC Art.15-25, including money laundering cases with a corruption offense as a predicate offence.

“International” – all cases must involve a foreign jurisdiction, e.g. as the country of asset location where proceeds of corruption were transferred to, or as the country of origin where the public official involved serves or where the corruption offense took place. Purely domestic asset recovery cases related to corruption - without any international element - are not included in the scope of the StAR database.

“Freeze/seizure”: see article 2(f) UNCAC: “temporarily prohibiting the transfer, conversion, disposition or movement of property or temporarily assuming custody or control of the property on the basis of an order issued by a court or other competent authority”.

“Confiscation”: see article 2 (g) UNCAC: “includes forfeiture where applicable, shall mean the permanent deprivation of property by order of a court or other competent authority”.

How was the database compiled and what are the data sources?

Over the past three years, StAR has been engaged in a sustained effort to collect new data from country authorities on global progress in international efforts to recover and return proceeds of corruption. Despite significant interest in the topic, information on the actual practice of international recoveries and returns of proceeds of corruption remains scattered and difficult to access.

StAR’s database contains information about ongoing and completed international asset recovery cases involving proceeds of corruption from two different types of sources:

1. Surveys (dark blue header)

Information on these cases was collected through three questionnaires that were circulated by StAR and by the UNODC Secretariat to all States parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in April 2020, in April 2022, and in April 2023. The complete list of states that submitted responses to the three questionnaires can be found in the annex to Note CAC/COSP/2023/15, prepared by the UNODC Secretariat for the 10th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption. 

The 1st survey covered the period 2010-2020 and responses were received in 2020 and 2021. The 2nd follow-up survey covered the period 2020-21 and responses were received in 2022. The 3rd follow-up survey covered the period 2022-23 and responses were received in 2023. In each round, countries were given the opportunity to report new cases within the timeframe in which they were involved or to provide updates to previously reported freezes, confiscations, or asset return cases. Reported cases were included into the database, either as a separate case or an existing case entry was amended to include survey information.

2. Public sources (light blue header)

These case entries were compiled through desk research using mostly official documents, such as court judgments and orders and government press releases, which are publicly available. In some cases official documents were complemented with other public sources such as reliable media articles and reports by civil society organizations or international organizations. Where available, the most relevant source documents have been appended to each case – see “Sources” tab. In some instances, information provided by country authorities through the surveys was used to update a case entry based on public source information to avoid duplicate database entries.

Visually, cases based on survey information are marked by a dark blue header, while cases based on public source information are marked by a light blue header. The data source, including the country that reported case information (for survey-based cases), is listed in the “Sources” tab.

How often is the information updated?

Information in the database relies on survey responses provided by country authorities to the UNODC Secretariat or to StAR. Where available, survey information is complemented by official documents such as court judgments and orders and government press releases. As UNODC collects new information from UNCAC States parties on a regular basis via follow-up questionnaires, collected information will be used to update the StAR database. Individual cases can also be updated on an ad hoc basis as relevant information is provided directly to StAR via the case reporting form.

How can I report a new international asset recovery case to be included in the database, or update information related to an existing case in the database?

New international asset recoveries or returns, updated information about current cases, or corrections, can be reported to be included in the StAR database via the case reporting form. We invite country authorities, as well as other partners to submit information to help us build a more comprehensive dataset of cases.

Please complete the form – to the extent that information is available and may be shared - and submit it to: starinitiative@worldbank.org.

Leave empty any fields that do not apply or where no information is available.

You can provide details on completed asset returns, asset confiscations or asset freezes involving proceeds of corruption that involve a foreign jurisdiction. Note that purely domestic asset recovery cases without any international element are not included in the scope of the StAR database. Do not include any sensitive case information in your submission.

Please include contact details for follow-up questions about your submission – these will be treated confidentially.

Disclaimer on the use of information in the database

The StAR Asset Recovery Watch is a product of the staff of The World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with external contributions. It is intended for general information purposes only. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in the database do not necessarily reflect the views of The World Bank its Board of Executive Directors, or the governments they represent, the United Nations, or its Member States. The World Bank and the United Nations do not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in the database. Neither the World Bank, the United Nations, nor its officers or employees shall be liable for any losses that may result directly or indirectly from the use of or reliance upon such information.

Data sources

Dark blue header:
cases based on surveys circulated to UNCAC States Parties, 2020-23

Light blue header:
cases based on public source information

Database fields

Tab: Case identifier

Case title

The case title can be the name of an entity or individual involved (or allegedly involved) or a different case identifier may be used. If a country reported a case via the surveys, then, in most cases, the title provided by the country was used, with minor edits to improve clarity and avoid duplications. Unnamed cases were given a title by identifying the countries involved, type of asset or offence, year of freeze/confiscation/return, or other elements.

Case cluster

The “case cluster” category is used to identify related cases, for example, asset recovery actions in different jurisdictions to go after assets belonging to the same individual. A cluster comprises a minimum of two case entries. Clusters can be viewed using the filter search options.

Tab: Geographic reach

Country of origin

The jurisdiction of origin of the public official involved, or allegedly involved.  Also sometimes referred to as the “Source Country” or “Victim State”. It is typically the country where the original corruption offence took place.

Country of asset location

The country of asset location is defined as the jurisdiction or state where the proceeds of corruption are located. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Destination Country” or “Holding State”.

Transit country

A country (other than the country of origin and the country of asset location) through which corrupt funds passed. 

Country of Bribe Payer

For bribery cases, the jurisdiction of the bribe-payer, or alleged bribe-payer (e.g., jurisdiction of involved company’s headquarters)

Tab: Case summary

UNCAC Offences Implicated

The Database is comprised of asset recovery cases involving “proceeds of corruption”, which is defined as proceeds of crime (“any property derived from or obtained, directly or indirectly, through the commission of an offence”, Art. 2(e) UNCAC) derived from corruption offences in accordance with UNCAC Art.15-25, including money laundering cases with a corruption offense as a predicate offence.

Public Officials involved or allegedly involved

Name and position held by public official while underlying offenses were committed, or allegedly committed.

Sectors Involved

Sector/Industry involved in the corruption offense

Professional intermediaries involved or allegedly involved

Professional intermediaries involved, or allegedly involved, in the corruption offense, e.g. bankers, lawyers, real estate professionals, accountants, real estate agents, art advisers, company service providers, etc. 

Tab: Asset recovery process

Asset Recovery Start

Year when asset recovery effort was initiated. This could be the year when the investigation was initiated, or the year when a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request was sent to country of asset location, for example.

Action Initiating Asset Recovery

This field describes how the asset recovery action was initiated. Options include: By an MLA request from the country of origin; by an MLA request from a third country; by an investigation in the country of origin; by an investigation in the country of asset location; by an FIU action to suspend a suspicious transaction; by an independent action from a financial institution; other procedure. If included in the database, this information was usually provided by the country authority in their survey response.

Stage of Asset Recovery

Cases are labelled according to the most recent / most advanced stage of asset recovery on which information is available. For example, a case related to which there was an asset freeze/seizure, followed by a confiscation, followed by an asset return is labelled only as “assets returned”. The stage of asset recovery may be marked as “unknown” if there was not enough information provided to identify the stage. Options for this field are: Investigation; Assets frozen/seized; Assets unfrozen/released; Assets confiscated; On appeal; Assets returned (in part); Assets returned; Unknown.

Legal Basis for Asset Recovery in the country of asset location

Asset recovery efforts can encompass a range of criminal and civil legal avenues. This field indicates the indicate the legal avenue(s) used in the country of asset location. If included in the database, this information was usually provided by the country authority in their survey response.

Legal Basis for Asset Recovery in the country of origin

Asset recovery efforts can encompass a range of criminal and civil legal avenues. This field indicates the indicate the legal avenue(s) used in the country of origin. If included in the database, this information was usually provided by the country authority in their survey response.

Legal basis for Asset Recovery in the country that initiated legal action to recover proceeds of corruption

This field indicates the indicate the legal avenue(s) used in the country that initiated legal action to recover proceeds of corruption. If included in the database, this information was usually provided by the country authority in their survey response.

Legal Basis for International Cooperation

Options include: UNCAC; Bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty; other multilateral treaties; Reciprocity.

Manner of Asset Transfer

For completed asset returns, this field describes how the funds were transferred, e.g. via direct wire transfer to a centralized government account (e.g. general budget); via direct wire transfer to a beneficiary government agency; to a separate, designated government account for the asset return; via an escrow or trust account; via physical transfer of a movable asset (e.g. car, yacht, artwork, aircraft); via wire transfer to a designated account held by a third party , e.g. CSO, international organization.

Contributing Factors in Asset Recovery

Field for noting any specific factors that helped make asset recovery possible, where this information is available, e.g. a joint international investigation team; use of an unexplained wealth order or illicit enrichment law, use of FIU’s power to suspend suspicious transactions.

Tab: Assets

Assets Returned

Asset amount of proceeds of corruption related to this case that were returned to another state, prior legitimate owner, or victims harmed by corruption in another state, based on available information. Multiple amounts are marked by #1, #2, #3, etc.

Assets confiscated

Asset amount of proceeds of corruption related to this case that were confiscated (see article 2(f) UNCAC), based on available information. Multiple amounts are marked by #1, #2, #3, etc.

Assets frozen or seized

Asset amount of proceeds of corruption related to this case that were frozen or seized (see article 2(g) UNCAC), based on available information. Multiple amounts are marked by #1, #2, #3, etc.

Date of asset return/
confiscation/
freeze

Month/year or time span. For some cases, the date for the asset freeze/seizure, confiscation or return is not provided – this is because this information was not always included in the country’s survey response.

Asset type at time of return/
confiscation/
freeze

Options include: Cash/bank deposit, Gold, Securities, Legal entity or arrangement, Real estate, Motor vehicle, Yacht/boat, Aircraft, Artwork

Jewelry.

Agreement for Returned Assets

Field to indicate whether an agreement for the transfer, disposal or management of the assets exists or is planned, e.g. an agreement under UNCAC Art.57(5), an asset-sharing agreement, or another type of agreement. If the agreement was provided, it is included in the case entry under “Sources”.

Monitoring and Disbursement Arrangements

Any available details on the arrangement for monitoring and disbursement of assets, including for example any involvement of a third party such as a CSO or an international organization.

USD conversion date

Date that was used to calculate the USD asset amount if original asset amount was provided in a different currency.

Tab: Sources

Data Source

Field to indicate the type of data source for the case entry.

Official information provided by country authorities = information was collected from authorities through questionnaires that were circulated by StAR or by the UNODC Secretariat

Public source information/desk research = case entries were compiled through desk research using mostly official documents, such as court judgments and orders and government press releases, which are publicly available. In some cases, official documents were complemented with other public sources such as reliable media articles and reports by civil society organizations or international organizations.

Official information provided by country authorities supplemented by StAR desk research/public source information = information provided by country authorities through questionnaires was used to update or supplement a case entry based on public source information to avoid duplicate database entries.

Visually, cases based on survey information are marked by a dark blue header, while cases based on public source information are marked by a light blue header.

Case information submitted by

Country/countries that reported case information (for survey-based cases)

List of sources

Where available, the most relevant source documents have been appended to each case entry. Additional sources that are missing from the list can be sent to StAR starinitiative@worldbank.org. Please include the Case Title and Case ID number in your email.