Headline Special Report

Laying the Base for “Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network” In Asia-Pasific


Photo : www.UNDOC.org

By: Retno Kusumastuti

REQuisitoire’s COO was in Seoul from December 4 – 5 , 2012, and got the opportunity to cover “Expert Meeting For ARIN (Asset Recovery Initiative) in Asia Pasific Region.”   The meeting was attended by asset recovery experts from Australia,  China, Indonesia, Costarica ( representative of Gafisud), Singapore, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand, Europol, South Korea and UNDOC , the initiator of the meeting. Here is the report,

UNODC ( United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) has come with an anticipative offer through Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Korea, in a bid to wave informal cooperations among Asset Recovery Offices (ARO) in Asia and Pacific.
The initiatve is seen as a reaction to increasing trans-border crimes and money laundering practices taking place  some previous years back  and that will tend to take toll in some years to come.

It has been a fact too that those criminals  still have the  impunity as still they can survive their business after being locked behind bars for years given that their criminal assets  were kept untouched.  It is ensured, however, that such era will quickly pass. The criminals will soon have to say goodbye to their luxory life after their jail terms. UNDOC was sure that by setting up informal networks around Asia and Pacific,  those criminals will have no more impunity, also against the background that legal warriors aroud the world  have been in position to start war on their criminal networking.

No more  ego
Representing UNDOC,  Jennifer Bramlette, Programme Manager and Senior Advisor of UNODC, called on asset recovery experts to get rid of  their ego in thinking that they can resolve their own problems without neccessarily working in cooperation with other countries  for help.
Instead, said Jenifer, cooperations between law enforcement institutions of different countries is a must , given the complexity  of trans-border crimes and the fact those criminals are backed up with tough and highly smart lawyers.  Cooperations can take many forms such as coordination,  information exchange and effective and simultaneous discussions between experts.

Michael Petty, Asset Recover expert from Australia, has as well expressed his expectation that ARIN AP (Asset Recovery Initiative Network for Asia Pacific Region) will not merely deal with asset freezing, confiscation and recovery  as shown by STARR INITIATVE this far, but can function as  the bridge for every single aspects including asset tracking, freezing and confiscating for any forms of crimes to also include cases of DRUG TRAFFICKING, WEAPON TRAFFICKING, HUMAN TRAFFICKING and others. Beside such functions, ARIN AP is also expected to give benefit for capacity building of law enforcement officers of the member countries.

As to the many obstacles faced within the scope of MLA ( Mututal Legal Assistance) given the differences in legal system of any given countries, Jill Thomas of Europol said there should be way out to adress them as criminals have to be totally eradicated.  Focusing on obstacles will surely make all law enforcement officers around the world loose the game before it starts. And with the same sense, ‘ we will never have any capacity to confiscate the criminal assets being placed in other countries’.

Jill, who is also a CARIN Secretary, went on inisisting law enforcement officers and asset recovery experts to tiredlesslly call for laws on criminal asset confiscation and neccessary revisions for the existing ones.  The Seoul meeting had facilitated partcipants to exchange experience and observations between them, especially on particular issues of “conviction based” and “non-conviction based system they have approached in their respective countries.

Singapore and Japan also made use of the opportunity to dig deeper on forms of informal cooperations as initiated through CARIN, ARINSA and RRAG.   Indonesia CARIN Contact Chuck Suryosumpeno and Apsari Dewi also revealed the benefits of being CARIN member as far as  Asset tracing and Asset Recovery are concerned.

Funding and Capacity Building

Availabilty of adequate fund is inevitable for the formation of ARIN AP. ARINSA, for exmaple, needs US$ 320,000 per year to support its secretariate, trainings and to pay experts. UNODC is said to collect the fund from donor countries.  However, Indonesian representative was of the opinion that the fund needed to finance ARIN AP Secretariate will become quite a burden for member countries  and detailed talks need to happen before the Steering Comitteee Meeting.

Capacity building has been the most attractive part of the meeting as it is but the real benefit one can get from such informal cooperations. All the participants were ready to share in the framework of capacity building of  ARIN AP members.   A special dinner with South Korea’s  Deputy Attorney General marked the closing of the meeting  when snowfall covered the Seoul city. It is the warm of snow that can bind all the informal cooperations together, to conquer the toughness of the criminal world. ***