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Together with Africa: Leaders respond to corruption in wake of Arab Spring

The following was taken from this update from Global Witness.

During a recent meeting of states parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), 140 governments passed a resolution that acknowledged systemic failures in the controls that should stop banks from taking dictators' money.

The resolution, initiated by Egypt and passed at a UN anti-corruption conference which focused heavily on the Arab Spring, also agreed more action was needed to help claw back stolen funds.

“Corruption on the scale that causes revolutions cannot happen without a bank to take the money. The very fact that some states are trying to get stolen money returned makes it clear that something has gone very wrong; these funds, which belong to the people of Egypt and Tunisia, should not be in foreign bank accounts in the first place,” said Global Witness’s George Boden.
The resolution calls on governments to require that banks know which of their customers are senior politicians and make sure that they are not handling looted state funds. Existing laws require this, but are not being enforced. The UN meeting recognized that robust regulatory action is needed. Countries where overthrown corrupt dictators have hidden their loot in bank accounts, real estate and luxury goods are urged by the resolution to be quicker at responding to requests for assistance from victim countries and to be more proactive in providing information.

While the action was encouraging, the resolution does not address the problem of incumbent corrupt leaders who are unlikely to initiate the call for the return of assets. In these situations, they said, states should follow the example of the U.S. Department of Justice which has filed civil forfeiture complaints in an effort to recover from Teodorin Obiang, Government Minister of Equatorial Guinea and son of the president, approximately $70.8 million of property which it alleges was the proceeds of corruption.

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