Working Group on Asset Recovery – Document Review

3 May 2019 – In the run-up to its 13thintersessional meeting (Vienna, 29-30 May 2019), the UNCAC Working Group on Asset Recovery has published the following three documents to be discussed during the meeting:

Here you can find a summary of these documents:

Revised draft non-binding guidelines on the management of frozen, seized and confiscated assets

In their need for technical assistance, the management of frozen, seized and confiscated assets (according to UNCAC article 31) has been identified as one of the priority areas for States during the second cycle of the UNCAC. Yet, while states requested a tool to guide them through the management of frozen, seized and confiscated assets, the draft guidelines, as they currently stand, do not provide comprehensive practical assistance.

This document is a reduced version where parts are missing, since the previous document had more comprehensive annotations, including examples for practices provided by states parties. An annotated version of the document is about to be circulated in a separate document at a later stage by the Working Group. For further details on certain Guidelines in the draft, the StAR initiative’s “Asset Recovery Handbook” can serve as a useful reference.

The draft guidelines address three thematic areas:
A: The administration of assets and, where possible, their disposal prior to final confiscation.
This includes preliminary provisions for scrutiny for the determination of whether or not an asset should be frozen, regulations for pre-confiscation sales of assets, interim measures on dealing with the assets, including the destruction of the assets in designated circumstances and the protection of bona fide parties.

B: Enforcement of confiscation orders and the use of confiscated assets.
The guidelines subsumed under chapter B advise states on the options with respect to confiscation orders, the legal definition of the fundamental policy preferences for the allocation of confiscated assets, on adopting clear rules for determining the beneficiaries of allocating confiscated assets based on the principles of transparency and accountability, giving all persons having a legitimate interest in an asset the opportunity to make a claim.

C: Institutional structure for asset management.
Institutional arrangements for the management of assets, equipping institutions with adequate skills and capacities, asset registration systems and databases as well as funding, autonomy and accountability of asset management structures.


Draft non-binding guidelines on the timely sharing of information in accordance with article 56 of the Convention and improving communication and coordination between various asset recovery practitioner networks

These non-binding guidelines aim at putting a system in place to streamline, simplify and enable the sharing of information under the provisions of UNCAC article 56. In complying with these provisions, states should endeavour to join the existing international arrangements enabling spontaneous exchange of information and, only if those are deemed inadequate, consider establishing new arrangements.

Draft guidelines:
  1. States should be able to spontaneously transmit information on the basis of general information-sharing arrangements, through networks or on a case-by-case basis.
  2. States should establish clear domestic rules, policies or guidelines about the conditions, avenues and types of information that can be shared.
  3. Rules, policies or guidelines should be conducive to the sharing of information.
  4. Receiving States should follow up actively on the information transmitted if needed.
  5. Spontaneous information-sharing should in general be considered favourably in cases of administrative freezing and settlement procedures.
  6. States should aim at designating effective contact points for asset recovery practitioner networks.
  7. States should endeavour to invest in the institutional support and resources for asset recovery practitioner networks.

Progress report on the implementation of the mandates of the Working Group on Asset Recovery

Key takeaways:
  • In order to build confidence and trust between requesting and requested States, States have repeatedly been invited to designate a central authority for Mutual Legal Assistance. The goal is to establish a global network of asset recovery focal points.
  • In order to build confidence and trust between requesting and requested States, States have repeatedly been invited to designate a central authority for Mutual Legal Assistance. The goal is to establish a global network of asset recovery focal points.
  • The Working Group (WG) would like to see a regular reporting mechanism on the volume of assets seized, confiscated and returned, which then could be used to update the StAR Initiative’s Asset Recovery Watch Database .
  • The WG suggests that UNODC, together with the StAR initiative, creates a helpdesk to assist states in the initial stages of asset recovery procedures.
  • Efforts are under way to update the TRACK (“Tools and Resources for Anti-Corruption Knowledge”) database and merge its directories of competent authorities with the SHERLOC (“Sharing Electronic Resources and Laws on Crime”; under the UNTOC)) portal.

In more detail:
The working group assists the Conference of the States Parties in the implementation of its mandate on the return of proceeds of corruption. Their work evolves mainly around the following tasks: the development of cumulative knowledge in the area of asset recovery, facilitating the exchange of information, good practices and ideas among States (including technical assistance and capacity-building) as well as building confidence and encouraging cooperation between requesting and requested States.

Developing cumulative knowledge products and tools, especially when it comes to internationally comparable data, is crucial to assess progress in the ambit of asset recovery. Thus, the Working Group also cooperates with financial institutions and financial intelligence units on topics such as international cooperation in civil and administrative proceedings relevant to asset recovery, and the management, use and disposal of frozen, seized and confiscated assets.

One of their main projects is the legal library part of the TRACK web-based platform that contains UNCAC-related laws, jurisprudence and information on anti-corruption authorities worldwide, with a dedicated section on asset recovery. Currently, the legal library is undergoing a process of redesigning and reconceptualization and should be fully available again in the second half of 2019.  Part of the update is to merge the directories of competent national authorities under the platform TRACK with the ones on the portal SHERLOC and to enhance information-sharing between the two databases.

In order to build confidence and trust between requesting and requested States, Stateshave repeatedly been invited to designate a central authority for Mutual Legal Assistance. Furthermore, the Conference has asked the Working Group to establish a global network of asset recovery focal points as a network of practitioners.

The main identified aspect for technical assistance, training and capacity-building is the demand forlegal advisory services in implementing article V of the UNCAC, which covers asset recovery. States have repeatedly asked for tailor-made approaches. In this regard, the Working Group has recommended that UNODC forges more partnerships and coordinates additional technical assistance activities in matters related to asset recovery. This should be done together with other relevant organizations and bodies such as the StAR Initiative to assist Member States. In particular, the Working Group is aiming at establishing a help-desk approach to asset recovery to give informal advice during the initial stages of a case and to refer requesters to counterparts who would be able to provide further assistance.

In addition, the Working Group wishes to establish a regular reporting mechanism on the volume of assets seized, confiscated and returned, which then could be used to update the StAR Initiatives Asset Recovery Watch database, which is to date the only systematic attempt to track efforts by prosecution authorities worldwide.