Policing Private Parties: How to Get Kleptocrats’ Seized Assets to their Citizens

As Rick has pointed out, it is exciting to see the successful forfeiture of U.S.-based assets owned by sitting Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, kleptocrat and international playboy Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue (“Obiang”). The Department of Justice estimates that the assets are worth an estimated $30 million. Also encouraging is the fact that the bulk of the settlement funds will be returned to the people of Equatorial Guinea. This is the first case in which the assets of a current leader’s cronies will be seized and repatriated to the country of origin by the U.S. Disbursing millions of dollars transparently in country that ranks 163/177 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index will be challenging.

In stolen asset repatriation cases, the debate over disbursement typically boils down to whether to channel reclaimed cash through the government or through private actors. In Equatorial Guinea, returning the money directly to the government is a non-starter: the Obiang family has an extensive record of human rights and corruption abuses and a tight grip on power. The DOJ settlement accordingly cuts the government and its henchmen out of the forfeiture proceeds and channels repatriated funds through a private charity. But simply relying on private actors will not eliminate corruption challenges; there are pitfalls in channeling aid through private NGOs as well.

The DOJ should keep the following risks in mind as works out a disbursement plan for the Obiang settlement funds: Continue reading

Guest Post: Reaching Bribery’s Victims (Part 2)

This month GAB is delighted to feature a series of guest posts from Andy Spalding, Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog.  This is the second in the series of three posts on how to compensate the victims of transnational bribery:

In my last post, I weighed in on the discussion concerning whether the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Article 53(b) (or any other provision), establishes a duty to allocate anti-bribery penalty money to the overseas victims. I’d like to suggest now that regardless of how one answers that question, using enforcement monies to benefit those victims is a good idea. We could engage any number of ethical, economic, foreign policy, or other arguments on this point; I’ll save those for another day. For the remainder of my post, I’ll assume that: 1) the citizens of corrupted governments are the principal victims of transnational bribery; and 2) enforcement should somehow benefit them. The next question, which is no less difficult, is how.

Continue reading