Investigators and prosecutors from the Malawi Police Service (MPS) have gained vital skills in financial investigations and asset recovery during a five-day intensive Financial Investigations and Asset Recovery training programme.

This is the first time our ICAR Training Team has been able to deliver in-person training since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Financial investigations are critical to proving crimes such as corruption, fraud and trafficking in humans or illicit goods. They are also central to confiscating illegally obtained assets from criminals – so that crime doesn’t pay.

Yet there is often confusion about who performs financial investigations, how, when and why, as well as their relationship to criminal investigations. All of these questions are further complicated by the fact that different countries have different legal systems, different laws and different terminology.

How can civil society organisations (CSOs) support efforts to recover stolen assets for their country? What are the different stages of the asset recovery process and what are potential actions in each one? What is the legal basis for the involvement of civil society in asset recovery? Where are the main risks and challenges, and how can CSOs overcome these?

Our International Centre for Asset Recovery originally developed a guide to the role of CSOs in asset recovery in 2014, together with partners in the context of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR). 

Practically every country has a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and it plays a vital role in combating money laundering and other financial crimes. Yet there is often confusion – even among anti-corruption authorities – about how it works, what it can and can’t do, and what value it brings. 

Thierry Ravalomanda, Senior Asset Recovery Specialist offers a quick overview.

Sophisticated and complex financial crimes span the globe. “Following the trail of the money” can involve many jurisdictions, each with their own laws and practices, and varying capacity or willingness to cooperate internationally.

Fighting corruption and money laundering, and recovering criminal proceeds, are therefore complex challenges. Specialised legal, financial accounting, analytical and investigation skills are essential.

Lise Stensrud, Policy Director Anti-Corruption at the Norwegian Development Cooperation Agency (Norad), explains the four challenges in "following the money" to tackle corruption, tax evasion and organised crime. Norad has recently become a core donor of the Basel Institute's International Centre for Asset Recovery, joining the UK, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Jersey.

An exclusive interview with Elmer Chirre Castillo (photo: right), Provincial Prosecutor of the Third Anti-Corruption Supraprovincial Prosecutor's Office of Lima. 

By Oscar Solorzano (photo: left), Senior Asset Recovery Specialist and Country Manager for the Basel Institute's Peru country office.

This Working Paper aims to contribute to the international policy dialogue on the link between asset recovery and countries’ pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It contends that supporting countries in recovering stolen assets and promoting sustainable development are mutually reinforcing. It also aims to correct the false reputation of asset recovery as a very technical legalistic field of development cooperation, and to generate broader understanding of the far-reaching role that asset recovery can play to foster development.

Asset recovery refers to the process by which the proceeds of crime are identified, traced, seized, confiscated and returned to their rightful owners. Generally speaking, States need to lead the process of recovering stolen assets. 

However, civil society organisations (CSOs) can play an important role in the different stages of the asset recovery process. 

This guide: