African Anti-Graft Experts Endorse CAPAR To Recover Stolen Assets 

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Anti-corruption experts in Africa have endorsed the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR) as a game-changer in the recovery and management of Africa’s assets from foreign jurisdictions.

The experts, Director of Public Prosecutions of Zambia, Gilbert Phiri and, Head of Public Sector Governance and Peace Directorate of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Roger Koranteng, also renewed calls for African countries to unite and speak with one voice through the instrumentality of CAPAR.

The anti-graft authorities spoke separately with the media crew of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) on the sidelines of the 10th Conference of States Parties held at the Georgia World Congress Centre in Atlanta, United States.

The COSP is a biennial event that brings together anti-corruption law practitioners, policymakers in the private sector, and civil society to renew efforts in the fight to prevent and combat corruption.

The Zambian Director of Public Prosecutions, Gilbert Phiri, advised African countries to come up with legislation for the establishment of a body in their respective countries to oversee the recovery and management of assets.

He said, “What CAPAR espouses is critical. It espouses the fact that we must come up with bodies that will assist in recovering and managing the returned assets of African countries. In Zambia, we have just started doing that.

“We are now legislating and coming up with a body that will assist in the recovery and management of the assets. This is where we have dropped the ball. We recover but these assets are wasted or stolen again.”

Phiri, who is a former Director-General of the Zambian Anti-Corruption Commission, added “CAPAR advocates that we come up with asset management bodies and also for us to work together and speak with one voice. The African nations need to come together and fulfill the aspirations of CAPAR. We are not yet there but if we can work together and fulfill the aspirations of CAPAR, we will go a long way.”

He identified a disconnect between African jurisdictions and foreign jurisdictions as a major challenge in tracing and recovering the continent’s assets and therefore advocated mutual respect between the two regional powers.

“One of the challenges that we have is that there is a disconnect. Africa is viewed as not capable of managing the assets once they are returned to create an avenue for the involvement of the same recipients of the stolen assets to come and dictate what should happen or how the assets should be utilized. If we are to relate based on respect, then Africa needs to be respected.

“It must be stated that we subscribe to the CAPAR. While we are undertaking this mutual cooperation, we need those stolen assets to be returned to Africa. The assets can be held in an escrow account with a regional financial institution so that they add value to African jurisdiction. It is agreed that the assets are African resources. If it takes 10 years to negotiate the repatriation of the assets and those resources are sitting in European countries, they don’t benefit the African countries,” Phiri stated emphatically.

The Head of Public Sector Governance and Peace Directorate of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Roger Koranteng, who also shared his view on Africa’s policy instrument on asset recovery, decried the devastating effect of corruption and illicit financial flows on the continent.

Koranteng emphasized the need for the return of Africa’s stolen assets to assist in the continent’s development and help the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Though corruption knows no boundary, the sleaze coupled with the illicit financial flows has been severe and damaging to the socioeconomic of Africa. What is left cannot meet the aspirations of the continent, including the SDGs,” he said.

He, however, advised the region to come up with a legal framework for CAPAR to support the repatriation of Africa’s assets back to the continent.

“African countries must come together in unity and support CAPAR to realise its goals. Africa’s interests should be supported by Africa. There is a need or political will by heads of government in Africa to ensure CAPAR succeeds,” Koranteng averred.

The African Union had on November 30, 2023, formally adopted CAPAR during the 45th AU Advisory Board Against Corruption meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania. The establishment of CAPAR is a critical step in reversing illicit financial flows out of the continent.

The CAPAR is a policy advocacy instrument aimed at assisting AU Member States to trace, identify, repatriate, and, subsequently effectively manage their assets, including items of cultural heritage, in a manner that respects their sovereignty and for the benefit of African peoples who are ultimately victims of illicit financial flows.

The policy instrument now stands as the best tool for Africa’s legal and technical framework in structuring the managing the return of Africa’s stolen assets from the foreign jurisdictions in which they may be held into insightful source countries.

The CAPAR, Illicit Financial Flows, Asset Recovery, Beneficial Ownership and Misuse of Corporate Vehicles, Civil Society’s Role in Addressing Enablers of Corruption and Reducing Gender Inequalities dominated the discussions at the breakout sessions of the 10th COSP in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

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