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Stolen Assets & Development

Corruption is a global epidemic to which no country is immune.  Its impact can be particularly devastating to developing countries, which alone lose billions of dollars every year through corrupt acts.  Much of this money finds safe haven in international financial centers.  Failing to stem and reverse these criminal flows contributes to the impoverishment of the world’s poorest people.

By conservative estimates, $20 to $40 billion is stolen from developing countries each year.  This is about 20 to 40 percent of annual international development assistance.

The costs go far beyond the amount of money lost, however.  Corruption of this kind undermines trust and confidence in government officials and agencies, companies, and banks.  It degrades public institutions, hinders the delivery of basic services, and discourages private investment—slowing economic growth and poverty alleviation.

In short, corruption undermines the legitimacy of states, challenges the rule of law, and—in the worst cases­­—contributes to the economic ruin of entire countries.

For StAR's partner countries, asset recovery is a integral part of their governance and anti-corruption programs. While the return of assets is an important indicator of success, the underlying rationale for asset recovery should be seen in terms of enforcement of the rule of law rather than purely economic terms. Where countries have been unable to bring prominent corruption cases to judgment in the past, the implementation of an asset recovery program can demonstrate the willingness of authorities at home and abroad to end impunity for the corrupt. Asset recovery programs may also deter and hinder corruption.

In this context, the launch of an investigation, the issuing and successful response to a request for mutual legal assistance, the freezing and confiscation of assets all represent victories in the fight against corruption and indicators of a successful asset recovery program. Recognition of these successes helps maintain momentum in a process that can take many years and where it is impossible to determine the prospects for the return of stolen funds at the start.

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