Recovering and returning stolen assets denies corrupt actors the ability to enjoy the proceeds of their crime(s) and can provide governments with much needed funds to promote the welfare of ordinary citizens.
With this in mind, on October 26-28, over 200 participants -- ministers, senior officials, investigators, prosecutors, and policymakers -- from the Arab countries in transition, countries from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Gulf regions, the G-8, and other financial center countries convened in Marrakech, Morocco, for the Second Meeting of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR II). Delegates to AFAR II renewed their commitment to cooperate to recover and repatriate the proceeds of corruption and discussed ongoing cases and ways to overcome challenges in the asset recovery process, sending a strong message that the international community will not tolerate impunity for corruption. As Attorney General Holder stated in his closing remarks, AFAR II signaled the international community’s “unyielding determination to fight corruption wherever it exists” and its resolve “to locate and return stolen assets not for the benefit of those who wield power, but for the people whose futures depend on opportunity, prosperity, and progress.”
Interest in asset recovery gained prominence in the MENA region and the international community in the wake of the Arab Awakening, and the United States launched the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR) last year during our G-8 Presidency in order to support transition countries’ efforts to recover stolen assets. The UK G-8 Presidency has continued to focus on asset recovery this year, and the United States has worked closely with the G-8, as well as with partners such as the World Bank’s and UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), to promote implementation of the G-8 Deauville Partnership’s Action Plan on Asset Recovery.
While asset recovery is a complex and lengthy process and many challenges remain, much has been achieved over the past two years. For example, Arab Forum countries have shared information about their legal systems and processes; formed asset recovery task forces and units specializing in asset recovery; and engaged in bilateral discussions to promote case cooperation. For our part, the United States has, inter alia, created a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Unit within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); published a guide on its asset recovery tools and procedures; and assigned two DOJ attorneys, supported by Department of State funds, to work exclusively with transition countries and their regional partners on asset recovery, including by providing tailored trainings on financial investigation and asset recovery. Moreover, the DOJ’s Office of International Affairs has attorneys dedicated to facilitating mutual legal assistance with countries in the region and has implemented a policy of prioritizing mutual legal assistance requests from Deauville Partnership countries.
The United States is committed to assisting and supporting institutions throughout the MENA region, and looks forward to strengthening partnerships to collectively make progress in the pursuit to recover proceeds of corruption.