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09 June 2017

Enhancing asset recovery investigations focus of INTERPOL-StAR conference

OTTAWA, Canada – Global cooperation between national asset recovery agencies to better fight corruption and financial crime was the focus of the 7th Annual INTERPOL-StAR Global Focal Points Conference on Asset Recovery in Ottawa.

More than 120 anti-corruption investigators and prosecutors from some 50 countries attended the three-day (6 – 8 June) meeting, organized by INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit and the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) – a partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in cooperation with the United States Department of State.

Hosted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the conference provided an opportunity for participants – who are designated national ‘focal points’ for asset recovery investigations in their countries – to review international trends and developments in the field, and to continue building relationships to enhance international cooperation in future asset recovery cases.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Paula Dionne said: “The current policing environment is complex and fast-changing. Technology continuously alters the landscape, and crimes are no longer restricted by borders. This is especially true for financial crimes. Now, more than ever, our partnerships at the international level are essential.”

Discussions at the conference focused on operational issues related to asset recovery, using examples of recent international cases to highlight challenges and possible solutions, as well as on tracing stolen assets and establishing mechanisms and systems for the effective management and disposal of recovered assets.

StAR Senior Legal Adviser Shervin Majlessi said: "The World Bank/UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative works with a growing number of regional and multilateral organizations to foster greater international cooperation on cases, policy, and general approaches to asset recovery. Our partnership with INTERPOL has contributed to the creation of a unique network of asset recovery practitioners across the globe which has steadily grown over the past nine years."

To improve communication among the anti-corruption community, the INTERPOL Secure Communications for Asset Recovery (I-SECOM) was launched in 2013. The secure, web-based e-mail system enables asset recovery practitioners to instantly and securely exchange information to support transnational investigations.

The platform is accessible via INTERPOL’s I-24/7 global police communication network and allows members to exchange sensitive information from their investigations and respond to the immediate needs for assistance from other member countries on asset freezing, seizing, confiscation, and the recovery of stolen assets.

"More than in other crime areas, anti-corruption and financial investigations require international cooperation that is built on trust as well as specific legal and practical knowledge. The INTERPOL-StAR Global Focal Platform provides these skills to practitioners and enables them to coordinate via a global network," said Sebastian Bley, Coordinator of INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption unit.

Launched in 2009, INTERPOL’s Global Focal Point Platform on Asset Recovery was established jointly with StAR, with the aim of assisting practitioners overcome operational barriers associated with international asset recovery. The platform currently has 224 dedicated Focal Points nominated from national law enforcement agencies, judicial and administrative authorities, representing 129 countries.

Capitalizing on the INTERPOL-StAR event, the Crimjust project hosted on 9 June in Ottawa the first Experts Working Group Meeting on Integrating Asset Recovery in Organized Crime Investigations.

Its main objective was to review the different national legislations, rules and procedures governing asset recovery as well as operational models. The meeting also provided an opportunity to establish direct working relationships and facilitate the exchange of knowledge, thereby enhancing interregional cooperation on asset recovery in organized crime in general and cocaine trafficking in particular.

The Crimjust project is an initiative funded by the European Union under the umbrella of its Cocaine Route Programme and is implemented by the UNODC in partnership with INTERPOL and Transparency International.

Sherwin Majlessi, Senior Legal Adviser, World Bank/UNODC StAR Initiative

Sebastian Bley, Coordinator of INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption unit

Stanley Ude, INTERPOL Anti-Corruption unit

Roch Côté, Head of INTERPOL Ottawa