16 June 2017

Africa's Stolen Assets Must Be Returned Without Conditions, Says UN Advisor

Developed countries should return Africa's stolen assets without conditions, says Adeyinka Adeyemi, senior advisor at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The commission estimates that every year $50bn worth of assets leave Africa illicitly to some developed countries, including many in the West, while around $1trn has left Africa secretly over the last 50 years. Around 75% of resources that leave the continent's shores in secrecy are traceable "to the behaviours or actions or inactions of our trans-nationals" such as mis-invoicing, while only 5% of the flows are traceable to official corruption.

Returning the missing assets without any conditions would, therefore, make the need for foreign aid in Africa to cease, according to Adeyemi.

"It is not only unrealistic, it's unethical. You cannot 'steal money' and attach condition(s) to a return," he told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). "So if the international community wants to help Africa, let us stop this unnecessary conversation that's going nowhere on why we should link illicit financial flows with other things, with governance, with aid."

Some of the conditions that Adeyemi highlighted were related to good governance being a precondition for returning stolen assets. The World Bank's Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) programme found that while nearly $1.4bn in suspected stolen assets from Nigeria were frozen in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) between 2010 and 2012, less than $150m had been returned.

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