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$1.6TRN LOOTED YEARLY - ADOKE

By NBF News
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BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI & AWA NNENNA
ABUJA-The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, yesterday, said investigation has revealed that 'the cross- border flow of the global proceeds from criminal activities, particularly corruption and economic crimes, is estimated to be between USD 1 to 1.6 trillion annually.'

The AGF, who said thisin a keynote address at a workshop on stolen asset recovery and management of the proceeds of crime, organised by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with Justice for All and the International Centre for Asset Recovery, in Abuja, yesterday, lamented that half of the aforesaid fund are looted from developing and transition economies as Nigeria.

He said: 'Statistics further reveal that USD 20 to 40 billion of this inflow originated in bribes to public officials from these countries. When viewed against the report of the commission for Africa to the effect that 'stolen assets equivalent to more than half of the continent's external debt are held in foreign bank accounts', it becomes imperative for developing countries that bear the brunt of this capital flight to vigorously pursue the recovery of stolen assets.'

While identifying lack of political will to recover stolen assets as the bane of successive administrations, the AGF said there was no doubt that the re-investment of recovered assets in development projects can make a significant contribution to the improvement of the socio-economic challenges in our country.

He said: 'The cross- border flow of the global proceeds from criminal activities particularly corruption and economic crimes, is estimated to be between USD 1 to 1.6 trillion annually. Half of this amount is looted from developing and transition economies. Statistics further reveal that USD 20 to 40 billion of this inflow originated in bribes to public officials from these countries.'

'When viewed against the report of the commission for Africa to the effect that 'stolen assets equivalent to more than half of the continent's external debt are held in foreign bank accounts', it becomes imperative for developing countries that bear the brunt of this capital flight to vigorously pursue the recovery of stolen assets.

'It is however apposite to state that the road to successful recovery of stolen assets is a long and tortuous one.

'The process is not only capital intensive, but dependent on the acquisition of the requisite technical capacity complemented by effective co-operation and collaboration with other countries, especially those countries where such stolen assets are hidden.

'Equally important is the political will to pursue recoveries by developing countries. We cannot over emphasize the need for developing countries to hold accountable, all those who have frittered away their national resources.

'In this regard, victim states must rely solely on other countries to initiate proceedings that will ultimately be of benefit to them. You will agree that the success of this endeavor depends largely on committed and transparent leadership. This underlines the resolve of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan's administration to tackle the corruption and prevent criminals from benefiting from the proceeds of their crimes.

'Closely related to the political will to recover stolen assets is the question of the judicious use of such recovered assets when it is eventually returned. Many developed countries have understandably expressed the fears that in the absence of good governance and accountability, asset recovery efforts would come to naught as recovered assets will again be looted and frittered away with devastating consequences on victim states.

'To engender confidence therefore, requesting countries must be ready to put in place requisite governance structures that can guarantee accountability in order to sustain the support of the requested countries.

'Until recently, these structures were largely absent in many victims states, a situation which prompted many requested states to impose additional requirements and conditions before acceding to requests for assistance in recovering stolen assets.

'In addition, it would seem to us that in accordance with fairness and principles of accountability the agencies engaged in the investigation of crimes and seizure of assets should not also be tasked with the function of managing such assets, but should concentrate on the prosecution of the predicate offences.

'Further more, given the increasing financial burden borne by the state in financing law enforcement initiatives particularly in the investigation and prosecution of economic crimes, there may be need to consider, as is the practice in many jurisdictions, transparent mechanisms for channeling a proportion of proceeds from recovered assets into an asset confiscation fund dedicated to initiatives that have long and short term benefits for law enforcement and crime fighting.

'There is no doubt that the re-investment of recovered assets in development projects can make a significant contribution to the improvement of the socio-economic challenges in our country', he added.