CiFAR launches its 2021 country profiles today. Across these seven countries, we see new advancements and setbacks in the anti-corruption and asset recovery fields. Covering a broad range of policy and legislation surrounding asset recovery, we hope that these profiles can provide useful insight into the current state of asset recovery in the countries covered.
Angola has made remarkable strides in its anti-corruption agenda by prosecuting a number corrupt of high-level government officials, introducing new legislation into its anti-corruption framework, and increased investigative efforts into financial crimes. The most notable asset recovery case has been against the former president Dos Santos and his family, fueled by the Luanda Leaks, a cross border investigative journalism effort. Efforts will however need to go beyond this case to be truly transformative.
Burundi addresses anti-corruption and asset recovery through a network approach, with these responsibilities allocated across several institutions. New legislation was introduced in April of 2021 to codify this decentralized approach, however with low levels of trust between the government and Burundian civil society and the highly restricted freedom of press, there have been concerns raised about the effectiveness of prosecutions for grand corruption and asset recovery in Burundi.
In Ethiopia, pervasive corruption remains one of the most serious challenges. Investigative journalists and critical civic voices have in the past been at risk of surveillance, harassment intimidation, imprisonment, and violence, although signs of improvement have shown in recent years. Although there has been a history of weak implementation, there is a framework for asset recovery within government institutions and there has been a renewed effort to prosecute corrupt government officials. However big questions remain over the political motivation of these prosecutions.
Germany is a destination and transit point for stolen assets. A member of many international institutions that address illicit financial flows, Germany has become more involved in multilateral discussions on asset recovery in recent years. However, Germany has no high-profile cases of assets being returned, despite several of its OECD peers have successfully been able to do so, and information on asset recovery efforts by the government is difficult to come by.
South Africa is both a source and destination country for the proceeds of grand corruption. Although the country is characterized by a robust institutional, legal and policy based anti-corruption framework, those in power have used corruption to influence the country’s policy, legislation, and economy for personal gain. With a functional free press and civic space, progress in anti-corruption work has been fueled by investigative journalists and civil society. An ongoing Commission is looking into allegations of state capture, which has big implications for the asset recovery agenda.
Corruption in Uganda is both systemic and systematic. Uganda’s government has moved to cut off international sources of financial support and taken measures to suppress critical civil society and dissenting voices, while the work of anti-corruption institutions is often interfered with. Although Uganda has had successful cases of both domestic and international asset recovery, legislation introduced in 2017, amending the Leadership Code Act, is likely to further enable corrupt officials.
In Zambia, public officials are not subject to financial disclosure and in 2019 it was estimated that nearly 1 in every 5 individuals had paid a bribe to receive public services. While there are institutions in place to combat corruption and that have received over 2,264 reports of corruption within the span of three years, asset recovery is hampered by corruption in the judiciary and the slow pace of investigation into cases. With a new president elected in 2021 who ran on a campaign against the fiscal debt incurred by the incumbent, political will for investigations into corruption appears to be growing in Zambia.
Post written by Brianna Rock