Asset recovery refers to the process by which the proceeds of corruption transferred abroad are recovered and repatriated to the country from which they were taken or to their rightful owners. TI EU advocates for a comprehensive reform of the EU asset recovery and sanction policy framework with a view to enhancing EU countries’ capacity to freeze, confiscate and repatriate stolen assets to victim populations.
In particular, TI EU is actively engaging in the process of revision of the 2014 Directive on asset freezing and confiscation for the introduction of instruments to facilitate the confiscation of stolen assets and principles for their responsible repatriation to the country where they were stolen from. To do so, TI EU builds on notorious cases of third-country corrupt political leaders and their family members such as Teodorin Obiang, Vice-President and son of President of Equatorial Guinea, Gulnara Karimova daughter of former President of Uzbekistan, Rifaat al-Assad, the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al–Assad, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, former President of Tunisia.
All these cases illustrate how public money that should have been spent on schools, hospitals and other public services end up lining the pockets of corrupt politicians. The proceeds of organised crime in the EU are currently estimated at about €110 billion per year, but European authorities are only able to confiscate an estimated, 1.1% of these proceeds.
Over the past decade, the EU adopted rules to support asset recovery efforts in Europe, but, as the European Commission acknowledges in its 2020 Report, overall results in terms of assets confiscated are not satisfactory and the confiscation rates in the EU remain very low. Even when stolen assets are actually confiscated, they are seldom returned to the people they were taken from.
The EU also holds a responsibility to take action in the subsequent stages of the corruption life cycle, i.e. the freezing, confiscation and responsible repatriation of stolen assets. TI EU is supporting these efforts through policy research and analysis as well as advocacy towards EU institutions.