What is Asset Recovery?
Asset Recovery is the process of tracing, freezing, confiscating and returning to their country of origin funds that have been obtained through illegal means. The process is usually legally and politically complex and consequently also lengthy. It requires a combination of technical skills and involves multiple jurisdictions.
The adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2005 for the first time enshrined the recovery and return of stolen assets as a fundamental principle of international public law. As per the Convention’s Chapter V, Article 51:
The return of assets pursuant to this chapter is a fundamental principle of this Convention, and States Parties shall afford one another the widest measure of cooperation and assistance in this regard.
This act has established Asset Recovery firmly on the international policy agenda. Since then a number of domestic and international efforts to recover and repatriate stolen assets have been underway. Yet, only few cases have been successful to date. Challenges relate primarily to lack of technical capacity to trace stolen assets and to the complexity of international cooperation in legal matters. The work of ICAR specifically seeks to support countries in overcoming these hurdles.
"Das Basel Institute on Governance sucht die Janukowitsch-Milliarden"
SRF, 8. September 2014
International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR)
The International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) was established by the Basel Institute on Governance in 2006 as an independent not-for-profit centre of excellence in asset recovery. It operates through the following main streams of activity:
Our vision is to be a world leader in strengthening the legal, technical and practical capacities of countries to recover stolen assets, resulting in these countries becoming increasingly more self-sufficient in doing so.
Mission and strategy
We aim to strengthen and support the capacities of developing and transition partner countries to recover stolen assets. We achieve this mission through training, case work, legal and policy analysis, the development of integrated IT tools, and by contributing actively to the global policy dialogue and international standard setting. Whilst adhering to the highest standards of integrity and sensitivity, we operate in a timely and collaborative manner, aligning and tailoring our assistance to international best practices and specific country needs. To create sustainability, our work is coordinated, integrated and partner-oriented.
ICAR’s training programmes are based on a unique and practice-oriented and interactive methodology that in each case is entirely tailor-made to the concerned country’s needs, its laws and institutions with a view to building the capacities of these countries in money laundering and corruption related financial investigation, mutual legal assistance and the recovery of stolen assets. The practical training exercises are interspersed with formal lectures provided by ICAR experts to guide participants through the different stages of analysis, interpretation, investigation, and evidence gathering. A training programme may also be delivered over a series of 5 to 7 individual sessions in the context of a Train-the-Trainer programme, which ensures sustainability of such a programme.
Topics covered in ICAR’s trainings include, for example:
- Intelligence gathering and analysis
- Asset tracing techniques
- Financial profiling
- Financial investigation
- Case and investigation strategy
- Anti-money laundering
- Mutual legal assistance, cross border issues and international cooperation
ICAR has in the past delivered trainings to countries such as Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Georgia, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Moldova, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine and Vietnam.
Finally, ICAR's Asset Recovery CAMPUS offers a series of e-learning modules for self-paced learning.
ICAR assists national enforcement authorities in partner countries with handling concrete and complex international corruption and/or money laundering cases with an asset recovery angle. Such assistance includes advice on intelligence gathering and analysis strategies, asset tracing techniques and financial profiling, as well as investigation and prosecution strategies. ICAR’s experts, for example, assist countries with MLA requests, through strategic and drafting advice, as well as with cross border issues and international cooperation, facilitating collaboration with other jurisdictions.
Currently ICAR is providing case work assistance in Central and South East Asia, Africa, the MENA region and Latin America.
Legal and policy advice
Upon request from a partner country, ICAR also regularly reviews and benchmarks domestic laws, policies and institutional arrangements relevant to asset recovery, anti-corruption and AML/CFT, and facilitates related local reform processes. This may include, for example, the review of a country’s compliance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and/or standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). ICAR thereby shapes and influences practices and policies in partner countries.
Global policy dialogue and research
ICAR participates in the global policy dialogue on asset recovery to share its experience with the broader international asset recovery and anti-corruption community, and to shape and influence international practices and policies related to asset recovery, through involvement in relevant research and policy studies, engagement on various interactive forums for asset recovery.
ICAR’s strategic approach is to focus on a small number of topics where it has unique expertise or where it can offer a particularly strong platform for dialogue, due to its apolitical nature. Current areas of focus for ICAR include:
- Role of non-state actors in asset recovery
- Management and return of confiscated assets
- Effective asset recovery practices
This work is often implemented jointly with local, regional and International partners, for example UNODC, the World Bank/UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) and the G8 Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR) as well as partners from the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Network (PNI), or, regionally, the OSCE and the European Parliament.
ICAR is funded with core contributions from the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and through project-specific grants.