AU moves to recover Africa’s ‘stolen’ assets

An African Union session at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo/AFP

By The Citizen

The African Union (AU) on Thursday, during the 45th AU Advisory Board Against Corruption (AUABC) meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania, formally adopted the Common Africa Position on Asset Recovery (Capar).

Capar is an instrument for recovery of stolen assets from Africa.

The AUABC Executive Secretary Charity Nchimunya said Capar is “already fully operational”.

Nchimunya explained that the creation of Capar is a critical step in stemming or reversing illicit financial flows or carting of other assets out of the continent.

“It can contribute to positively to the fight against graft in Africa,” she said.

Capar’s creation was formally endorsed by the AU during a meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda in 2020.

It’s mandate is to identify assets that have been stolen from Africa and stashed abroad as well as their recovery.

The instrument will work closely with the anti-graft bodies in the respective countries where grand corruption is rife.

“After struggling for many years, a mechanism that will help in recovery of stolen assets is now in place,” she told The Citizen.

Capar, she explained, will assist in identifying, repatriating and effectively managing Africa’s assets “for the common good of citizens”.

It will operate in accordance with Africa’s development agenda, domestic laws “and in a manner that respects the sovereignty of member states”.

Also, it will operate on four pillars: asset detection and identification, asset recovery and return, asset management, and cooperation and partnership.

Illicitly acquired assets originating from Africa, include but are not limited to, natural resources and African artefacts.

Abusive transfer pricing of resources, trade mis-invoicing, tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance and double taxation have also been included.

Also in the list are crimes associated with money laundering, smuggling, trafficking, and abuse of entrusted power.

“It is now possible for stolen money from Africa and stashed in the foreign banks to be recovered,” she pointed out.

With Capar already in place, AUABC has developed guidelines for the recovery of illicitly acquired assets from the continent.

Money stolen from African countries and stashed in overseas vaults has been a matter of concern among governments in Africa for years.

Official reports from the Arusha-based anti-graft body reveal that the mostly liquid assets include swindled cash and valuable minerals hidden in numbered Swiss Accounts.

AUABC Chairperson Seynabou Ndiaye Diakhate said some of the assets were smuggled abroad by leaders, their relatives or accomplices and other influential people in the member countries.

“If many countries are cooperative eventually much of the stolen treasures will be recovered and restored back to the states where they were looted,” she said.

For many years since their respective independences, many African countries have experienced their domestic treasures being siphoned out of borders to overseas destinations.