The return of the proceeds of corruption to the victim country is a “fundamental principle” of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. How that return is to be realized, however, remains subject to dispute, particularly when the victim country’s government is highly corrupt. Should governments where the stolen assets are discovered send them back no matter how corrupt the victim country’s government is? Wouldn’t the return to a highly corrupt government frustrate the Convention’s most basic purpose — the prevention of corruption.
How to resolve this tension has been the subject of vigorous debate on this blog (here, here, here, here, here and here). Now some 50 members of the UNCAC Coalition’s Civil Society Working Group on Accountable Asset Return, from both countries where stolen assets have been found and those where return has been requested or realized, have weighed in. In a February 14 letter to an UNCAC conference on asset recovery (addis-ababa-conf-agenda-february-2017-updated-02-02-2017), they write that where the victim country’s government is highly corrupt, it should be bypassed: “returning and receiving countries should in consultation with a broad spectrum of relevant experts and non-state actors find alternative means of managing the stolen assets” (emphasis in original). The letter offers powerful arguments in support of its position. The full text and the list of signers follows. Continue reading