This call was made at the recently concluded three-day regional workshop on criminal asset recovery. The workshop, which took place on 12 through 14 December 2011, was held at the National Assembly Complex in Praia, Cape Verde.Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Director General of GIABA, Dr Abdullahi Shehu, represented by GIABA’s Director of Programmes and Projects Dr Buno Nduka, expressed concern that there are inadequate legal and institutional frameworks in West African countries to ensure that proceeds of crimes are forfeited, seized and recovered.
His words: “The absence of the necessary legal and institutional frameworks and mechanisms that facilitate the detection, prevention and deterrence of economic and financial crime often allow criminals to hide the proceeds of their crimes either in the country where the criminal activity was committed or abroad – thus, assisting criminals to conceal, disguise the source, ownership, control and movement of crimes thereby lowering the chances of detection.”
According to him, criminals and criminal organizations are attracted to countries where they could enjoy the proceeds of their crimes and evade the legal consequences of such crimes.
Speaking further, Dr Shehu noted that the task of criminal asset recovery seeks to ultimately protect national economies and the financial and banking systems of ECOWAS member states against the scourges of crime and to combat the financing of terrorism through “harmonized and concerted adoption of appropriate measures while creating a platform for a dynamic and broad-based economy.”While he called on ECOWAS member countries to do all it takes in order to effectively tackle criminal activities, the GIABA DG said that “the realization of the aim to take profit out of crime will be achieved through legal and related institutional measures, including preventive measures to be taken by financial institutions,, designated non-financial businesses and professions, legal persons, and not-for-profit organizations as well as national coordination and international cooperation.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the GIABA national correspondent of Cape Verde, Dr Antonio Varela, noted his country’s concerted efforts in fighting organised crime.He said the country recently recorded great number of seizure of narcotics, resulting in the freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of those drugs.
He also noted that while the arrest of criminals is an important component in the fight against crime; it is equally important to withdraw all the means by which criminal organisations may seek to continue their illicit activities.
The Minister of Justice of Cape Verde, José Carlos Lopes Correia, who also spoke at the event, outlined his country’s spirited efforts at making the country unattractive to criminals.According to him, it was important that the international community, regional organizations and legal systems are equipped with new tools for the prevention of and combating economic crimes “particularly in creating national services focused on the detection, identification and seizure of products or goods that are related to crime, and the establishment of inter-service network for recovery of these goods.”
Mr Correia also called for the strengthening of legal and institutional frameworks that would aid the recovery of stolen assets. He then congratulated GIABA for charting the path for criminal asset recovery in West Africa.
The workshop, which is the first to be organised by GIABA on criminal asset recovery, is expected to enhance the capacity of the participants to recover proceeds of crime in the region, set the stage for the adoption of national and regional asset recovery strategies and policies and ultimately facilitate in combating transnational organised criminal activities, particularly corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing.
Participants at the seminar included judges, prosecutors, investigators and officials of financial intelligence units who are responsible for asset recovery in their respective institutions.