Africa’s Fight against Illicit Financial Flows and renewed calls to Return Stolen Assets

The African Union (AU) - April 02, 2024
The fight against corruption has contributed significantly to the on-going transformation of economies across the continent and reinforces the determination towards achieving inclusive and sustainable development as envisaged in Africa’s Agenda 2063.

These strides in the fight against corruption have been supported by legal and policy frameworks such as the African Union’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC).

The need to focus on the impact of corruption was solidified in 2018 which was designated as the African Anti-Corruption Year, during which the African Union reflected on the effectiveness of the approaches used to fight corruption on the continent and, purposely focused activities to enhance the fight against graft.

The year enabled the AU to identify key priorities, notably, the development of a Common African Position on Asset Recovery, the development of an African Anti-Corruption Methodology, as well as continued advocacy against illicit financial flows through the Consortium on Illicit Financial Flows. The African Union report on the progress on implementation of the 2018 theme of the year, "Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation", gives a preliminary assessment of the implementation of the activities towards the fight against corruption and highlights some key findings and recommendations.

The AU has since designated the 11th of July as the African Anti-Corruption Day to deepen the resolve, focus and expertise for addressing the many facets of corruption facing Africa; to scale up and increase the effectiveness of advocacy efforts and to enhance and broaden partnerships with all stakeholders through strategic collaboration aimed at fighting corruption on the continent.

African states continue to show their commitment to the fight against corruption as evidenced by the ratification of the AUCPCC treaty in 2018 by Angola and Sudan and Sao Tome Principe in 2019, bringing the total number ratifications to forty one (41). At least twenty five (25) Member States have also undertaken to implement domestic reforms to strengthen anti-corruption measures.

Youth have also taken an active role in the anti-corruption fight with various youth-led activities and the African Youth Congress Against Corruption has since adopted the Youth Declaration against Corruption and endorsed the establishment of the African Youth Community of Practice on Anti-Corruption (AYCPAC) as a framework for coordination of youth led efforts in the fight against corruption in Africa.

The African Union has been keen to rally citizen’s participation on AU-led anti-corruption initiatives across the continent and a correlated increase in knowledge on the dangers of corruption on socio, economic and political transformation of Africa. This has also provided a platform for strengthened partnerships with key stakeholders including national anti-corruption agencies, supreme audit institutions, civil society organizations, and the media.

Lessons from the African Anti-Corruption Year 2018 showed that there is need to strengthen and further capacitate national anti-corruption agencies and related institutions to ensure their functional autonomy as well as capacitate the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) to understand the challenges of Member States in ratifying and domesticating the Convention.

Further, the AU Assembly adopted the Nouakchott Declaration on the African Anti-Corruption Year in which AU member states committed to progressively abolish bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent, establish public beneficial ownership registers and ensure that public officials declare their assets. The Assembly also called upon international partners and allies to agree on a transparent and efficient timetable for the recovery and return of stolen assets to Africa with due respect for the sovereignty of States and their national interests. Given this, the imperative for a Common African Position on Asset Recovery cannot be overemphasized.

In this regard, the AUABC convened the 3rd Edition of the African Anti-Corruption Dialogue under the theme “Towards a Common African Position on Asset Recovery” from the 7th -15th October in Kigali, Rwanda. The dialogue sought to consolidate the gains and drive momentum for the legal and political framework to enhance the fight against corruption and accountability and transparency in the utilization of returned assets. The fight against Illicit Financial Flows and the imperative to ensure the swift recovery and return of stolen assets remain key priorities for the African Union.

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The Special Investigation Commission (SIC) is a multi-function financial intelligence unit (FIU) with judicial status. It is the center piece of Lebanon’s AML/CFT regime, a platform for international cooperation and plays a vital role in safeguarding concerned sectors from illicit proceeds.
The SIC’s tasks include receiving and analyzing suspicious transaction reports (STRs), conducting financial investigations, lifting banking secrecy, freezing accounts and/or transactions and forwarding them to concerned judicial authorities. 
With respect to terrorism and the financing of terrorism, the SIC is also empowered to prevent the use of movable or immovable assets. In addition to sharing ML/TF intelligence with counterparts and coordinating with foreign/local competent authorities on requests of assistance (ROAs), the SIC also proposes AML/CFT regulations and issues regulations and recommendations to concerned parties. 
AML/CFT supervision via risk based compliance examinations that cover banks and other reporting entities to ensure proper implementation of prevailing regulations is also among its tasks.

Law No. 44 criminalizes illicit proceeds that are derived from the following offences:

1. The growing, manufacturing, or illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and/or psychotropic substances according to the Lebanese laws. 
2. The participation in illegal associations with the intention of committing crimes and misdemeanors. 
3. Terrorism, according to the provisions of Lebanese laws. 
4. The financing of terrorism or terrorist acts and any other related activities (travel, organizing, training, recruiting…) or the financing of individuals or terrorist organizations, according to the provisions of Lebanese laws. 
5. Illicit arms trafficking. 
6. Kidnapping, using weapons or any other means. 
7. Insider trading, breach of confidentiality, hindering of auctions, and illegal speculation. 
8. Incitation to debauchery and offence against ethics and public decency by way of organized gangs. 
9. Corruption, including bribery, trading in influence, embezzlement, abuse of functions, abuse of power, and illicit enrichment. 
10. Theft, breach of trust, and embezzlement. 
11. Fraud, including fraudulent bankruptcy. 
12. The counterfeiting of public and private documents and instruments, including checks and credit cards of all types and the counterfeiting of money, stamps and stamped papers. 
13. Smuggling, according to the provisions of the Customs Law. 
14. The counterfeiting of goods and fraudulent trading in counterfeit goods. 
15. Air and maritime piracy. 
16. Trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants. 
17. Sexual exploitation, including sexual exploitation of children. 
18. Environmental crimes. 
19. Extortion. 
20. Murder. 
21. Tax evasion, in accordance with the Lebanese laws

Money-laundering operations may occur in any business especially:  
· Banks  
· Other financial institutions (insurance, mutual funds, etc.)  
· Money exchange firms  
· Antique dealers  
· Real estate concerns  
· Jewelry dealers