Legal Adviser Shadrach Haruna discusses the Commonwealth's work with national criminal justice agencies to investigate and prosecute destabilising economic crimes
Money laundering, corruption and the financing of terrorism can threaten a country’s financial stability and its development: undermining the integrity of financial institutions, discouraging foreign investors and draining essential resources. In an increasingly globalised world these negative effects can also spill over to other countries and economies.
As these crimes become increasingly prevalent in Commonwealth countries many states are facing new legislative, institutional and operational challenges to combat them.
Money laundering is a process by which the illicit source of assets obtained or generated by criminal activity is concealed to obscure the link between the funds and the original criminal activity. Terrorism financing involves the raising and processing of funds to supply terrorists with resources to carry out their attacks. – International Monetary Fund
The Commonwealth is working with its members to build their capacity to combat and prevent financial and transnational crimes, focusing on enhanced scrutiny, improving coordination between national agencies and effectively implementing relevant legislation.
One such initiative is a four-day training workshop from 15 to 18 January 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria, for prosecutors and investigators on effectively dealing with corruption, terrorism-related cases and its financing, money laundering and recovering the proceeds of crime.
Shadrach Haruna, Legal Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat and workshop coordinator said: “There is difficulty in attracting foreign direct investment when financial and economic crimes are thriving within a country.
“If you allow criminals to thrive then you will not have the desired development you are looking for.”
Mr Haruna said the legal and administrative framework to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism is ineffective, uncoordinated and weak in many countries. The workshop aims to enhance the understanding, build closer interaction, coordination and exchange of information, among criminal justice agencies.
“We want to ensure that the criminal justice officials, investigators and prosecutors understand the concept and dynamics of these crimes and how to investigate and also work together in a coordinated manner to investigate and prosecute them successfully.
“One crime could encompass several offences, including money laundering and the financing of terrorism, so we want criminal justice agencies to come together and understand there is a need for a multi-agency/disciplinary approach to investigations and prosecutions.”
Since 2010, Nigeria has made political commitments to work with the Financial Action Task Force and the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa to address its challenges, including enacting legislation to criminalise money laundering and establishing and implementing adequate measures for the recovery of proceeds from crime.
The training will also focus on the safety of informants and witnesses going through the criminal justice process and preserving the rights of the accused in the investigation and prosecution of serious complex crimes.
Fifty-three participants drawn from Nigeria federal prosecutorial agencies and the judiciary will attend the workshop. Technical experts and practitioners, including renowned senior silks, barristers and forensic experts from the UK and the Africa region, will deliver the training and conduct practical exercises.
The workshop in Nigeria follows a similar initiative in Pretoria, South Africa, in September and Colombo, Sri Lanka, in December where the Commonwealth focused on addressing systemic corruption, international co-operation, the deficiencies in the criminalisation of money laundering and terrorist financing and strengthening the capacity of agencies to investigate and prosecute serious crimes.
Further workshops on corruption and economic crimes are planned for Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, Caribbean and Pacific.