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13 May 2015

New INTERPOL notice could provide global link in targeting criminal assets

BERLIN, Germany – The development of new operational tools to assist law enforcement in tracing and recovering criminal assets was the focus of the INTERPOL Expert Working Group on the Identification, Location and Seizure of Assets.

During its third and final meeting, the group outlined several recommendations including the creation of a new INTERPOL notice to target criminal assets. If approved by the General Assembly, a pilot project will be established to implement the new notice to assist member countries to locate, identify, obtain information about, monitor, seize, freeze and/or confiscate assets.

The development of additional operational tools by INTERPOL was also recommended: an analysis file and a case-coordination database on asset recovery. These tools could provide added value to multijurisdictional asset tracing investigations and facilitate real-time information-sharing in these often complex cases, including in the context of Joint Investigation Teams.

The group was updated on research being carried out by the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore in the area of crypto-currencies aimed at creating techniques to enable law enforcement to trace and attribute virtual currency payments linked to criminal activity.

The two-day meeting (11 and 12 May) organized by INTERPOL in cooperation with the German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) brought together 130 experts from 43 countries and eight international organizations and operational networks, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Criminal Court, the World Bank, CARIN and the Egmont Group.

State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Emily Haber, said: “The recovery of criminal assets is a central element of the fight against organized crime. Organized crime knows no national borders, so the recovery of criminal assets also requires concerted action by the international community.”

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said whilst strengthened legal frameworks and new initiatives for the recovery of illicit proceeds had seen positive developments, they had also shown the limits in asset tracing and recovery worldwide.

“The phrase ‘follow the money’ is one by which law enforcement lives in order to locate criminals,” said Secretary General Stock. “It is here that INTERPOL can play a central role in ensuring our 190 member countries have the tools they need to conduct investigations and more importantly, identify, locate and seize criminal assets.”

BKA Vice-President Peter Henzler also emphasized the need for international law enforcement cooperation.

“The asset recovery offices within the European Union have made excellent progress in cross-border cooperation. I appreciate INTERPOL’s initiative to also improve the worldwide cooperation to locate and seize illegal profits. It is only in this way that criminals around the world can be dispossessed of what is most important to them, their criminal assets.” said Mr Henzler.

The working group session, which took place at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, was headed by Chairman Ambassador Eugenio María Curia and Joël Sollier, General Counsel of INTERPOL. The meeting was attended by two INTERPOL Executive Committee Delegates for Europe, Filippo Dispenza – also Vice Chairman of the meeting – and Alexander Prokopchuk.

With studies showing less than 10 per cent of all criminal gains are being recovered, one of the key goals behind the creation of the Expert Working Group is to increase the number of criminal assets being frozen, confiscated for the benefit of society or given back to original owners.