Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor at Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (September 11, 2012)
Remarks by Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor at Arab Forum on Asset Recovery - As Prepared for Delivery (September 11, 2012)
- As Prepared for Delivery -
Good Morning. I’d like to welcome you all to the inaugural meeting of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery. I’m pleased that so many of you have gathered to launch this important effort, and on behalf of the United States let me express our appreciation to the government of the State of Qatar for co-hosting this meeting, and to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani for presiding over this opening. I would also like to thank the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative for their steadfast work in this area and their support for this Forum.
The uprisings taking place in North Africa and the Middle East began with a fruit seller in Tunisia. His act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the region. The protestors demanded political freedom and economic opportunity. They specifically voiced their frustration regarding issues such as corruption. While corruption is by no means unique to any one particular region or country, theft and bribery by officials weakens confidence in public institutions, damages the private investment climate, and divests needed funding available for investment and development.
Efforts to facilitate asset recovery are a key element in combating and discouraging this corruption. That is why the countries that negotiated the United Nations Convention Against Corruption made asset recovery a fundamental principle and included measures in the Convention for effective cooperation in this area.
The United States has committed to help lead the fight against large scale corruption and to help recover the proceeds of corruption. Through the Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the United States has worked – or continues to work – to confiscate the proceeds of corruption in countries such as Peru, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Taiwan, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, so that this money can be returned to the people and used by the people. I hope that the efforts that we launch at this Forum will allow us to add some success stories to this list specific to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
As the current chair of the Group of 8 and the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition, the United States has focused on asset recovery as an issue that could be advanced through the cooperation that the Partnership is meant to reflect and foster. The elements in the Deauville Partnership Action Plan on Asset Recovery are the crucial steps necessary to address these issues.
We appreciate the efforts of our G8 and Arab partners to prioritize these issues and ensure robust cooperation. This Action Plan is historic because it was negotiated not just among the G8, but also with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Turkey. It reflects joint commitments that when implemented will allow these countries in transition to fulfill a promise to their people.
Among the commitments are greater transparency and expert networking to build technical capacity and also commitments to enact legal and legislative changes that will allow our legal structures to better facilitate the return of these stolen assets.
But let me be clear…there is no quick fix to this often complex legal issue. Still, by working together, we can find ways to sharpen our investigative capacity, build better networks for our law enforcement and judicial officials, adopt new legislative approaches to streamline legal cooperation, and eventually recoup assets. We also need to put in place the preventative measures to stop corruption from occurring and make it harder for the proceeds of corruption to leave the country and enter financial systems abroad.
Over the next three days our goals are to understand each other’s legal systems better so as to strengthen international legal cooperation, share best practices for legal and institutional reforms, and provide insight on capacity building needs. In addition, we will bring our practitioners together to advance specific cases and to establish working relationships.
In his speech in May 2011, President Obama said that the United States “will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.” We stand by that pledge and view this inaugural meeting as a landmark moment in building a new platform for cooperation.
This work on asset recovery is one way in which we can send the message loud and clear that public officials who abuse their power for personal gain are on the wrong side. And we will keep working and keep fighting to hold them to account. We hope that each of you will join us in this fight.