Friday, November 19, 2010

TIZ calls on govt to act decisively on management of frozen assets

TIZ calls on govt to act decisively on management of frozen assets
By Ernest Chanda
Fri 19 Nov. 2010, 04:01 CAT

TRANSPARENCY International has adopted a declaration calling on governments to act decisively on the repatriation of stolen assets and management of frozen assets. And Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Reuben Lifuka called on the government to take the declaration seriously.

According to the TI Bangkok Declaration on Stolen Assets Recovery and the Management of Frozen Assets, made at the annual members’ meeting in Thailand, members called for political will among governments to fight corruption in a more meaningful way.

“This resolution reflects the fact that, despite some asset recovery successes, several countries are experiencing difficulties today in their endeavour to trace, seize, recover and repatriate assets and money illegally appropriated and transferred abroad by their nationals and other collaborators,” TI members said last week. “Moreover, well over US $140 billion has been illegally and corruptly appropriated from Africa alone, by politicians, soldiers, businesspersons and other leaders, and kept abroad in the form of cash, stocks and bonds, real estate and other assets. While the issue of the circulation of criminal proceeds and money laundering is now being addressed to some extent, the status of frozen assets for the duration of litigation or resolution of disputes arising out of the ownership of these assets is not being directly addressed.”

The members called for the prosecution of those alleged to have stolen assets.

They also mandated the World Bank and regional banking institutions to open accounts for frozen assets.

“Countries in which the stolen assets are located should respond swiftly to requests for mutual legal assistance and develop and enforce laws and regulations that prevent frozen assets from staying lodged with the same institution, corporate structure or individual that accepted the asset prior to the freezing order,” TI members said.

“Financial institutions which do not release frozen assets to the legally declared owner after a release order has been issued by the competent jurisdiction should be held legally liable.”

They further recommended that financial institutions should release frozen assets accrued of interest calculated on the basis of time elapsed between freeze and release.

“The World Bank and/or Regional Development Banking Institutions should create escrow accounts for frozen assets and all governments and the international community should, as a matter of priority, ensure the swift transfer of all frozen assets to these accounts,” they stated.

TI members wondered why so much money stolen from Africa had been allowed to circulate freely in the economies of some of the world’s wealthiest nations in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and diverse offshore havens, and they called on developed countries to tighten their anti-money laundering efforts.

Lifuka described the declaration as a call for developing countries to work together in managing resources properly.

“It is necessary in our view that the government of Zambia takes this declaration seriously,” he said.

“This is a call, not just on the G20 countries, but also developing countries to work together in the repatriation of stolen assets and management of frozen assets.”

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