06. September 2021

11th Lausanne Seminar spotlights public-private collaboration for asset recovery

Lausanne Seminar
Held virtually this year, the 11th Lausanne Seminar saw the participation of around 150 leading voices in asset recovery from the public and private sectors

See summary report released in December 2021: Boosting Co-operation in Asset Recovery: Exploring the Potential of Private Sector Engagement and Public-Private Collaboration

How can law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units and private financial institutions such as banks work better together to identify, freeze and confiscate criminal assets?

What opportunities and challenges are there for public-private collaboration for asset recovery, and what can we learn from emerging models such as financial information-sharing partnerships?

These questions were central to the 11th Lausanne Seminar held on 2–3 September 2021, a forum for sharing knowledge, best practices and hands-on experience involving the recovery of illicit assets.

The Lausanne Seminars are an initiative of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs - Directorate of International Law, organised jointly with the Basel Institute’s International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) and the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) of the World Bank and UNODC. This year’s event also benefited from the support of RUSI’s Future of Financial Intelligence Sharing research programme.

Held virtually, the invitation-only event gathered 150+ international asset recovery practitioners (prosecutors, investigators, judges) and policy makers, plus prominent individuals from the private sector who are leading efforts to improve public-private collaboration for financial information sharing.

Public-private partnerships against financial crime

In recent years, cooperation between public authorities and private financial institutions has grown in many advanced jurisdictions. Mechanisms such as the UK’s Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT) and the US’s FinCEN Exchange have proven highly beneficial in the fight against financial crime and other types of serious organised crime.

  • At the tactical level, benefits include the efficient sharing of information to enhance ongoing investigations, plus increases in the quality and quantity of suspicious transaction reports.
  • At a strategic level, members of the partnership can combine their complementary expertise, information and capacity to develop more accurate typologies or red flags for financial crime, as well as improved financial indicators for regulatory reporting.

Research by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has identified 20 such national-level partnerships so far, accounting for 41 percent of the world’s GDP and 20 of the top 30 global financial centres. These exist alongside transnational information-sharing partnerships such as the Global Coalition to Fight Financial Crime and the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce, which facilitates financial information-sharing in cases of illegal wildlife trade.

This is a very positive development, but a range of challenges exist. This include the often voluntary nature of the mechanisms, restricted membership and in some cases a lack of sufficient resources, as well as complex questions related to data privacy for example. This is in addition to the fact that still a lot more jurisdictions would need to endorse and implement such mechanisms for the effect of this concept on fighting financial crime and recovering stolen assets to reach its full potential.

The Basel Institute’s ICAR is among those promoting the introduction and widest possible use of such public-private partnerships to support the detection, freezing, tracing and confiscation of stolen assets. As the Managing Director of the Basel Institute, Gretta Fenner, said during her opening remarks:

“This topic is still very new for many in the asset recovery community. But we hope that the dialogue started in Lausanne can contribute for public-private information sharing becoming a standing agenda item in global asset recovery discussion.”

In that sense, it is hoped that the compilation of insights that will be published following the seminar will help to drive public-private cooperation into mainstream asset recovery policy and practice.