Money laundering and corruption are pervasive crimes that continually plague society, with perpetrators often managing to enjoy the proceeds of their crimes without being held accountable by the justice system.
The Basel Institute on Governance (“the institute”) works worldwide with the public and private sectors and civil society to counter corruption and other financial crimes.
In its 2021 annual report (“the report”), the institute highlights underused laws and approaches to combat money laundering, bribery and corruption.
The institute’s 2021 Basel AML Index found that jurisdictions around the world are not performing particularly well in combatting money laundering and terrorism financing risks, highlighting key risk trends including virtual assets, ineffective AML/CFT systems, beneficial ownership, and ML/TF vulnerabilities beyond the financial sector.
The report highlights how government leaders are increasingly responding to the Basel AML Index, which has recently been referred to by Interior and Finance Ministers, Central Bankers, and a President. Civil society organisations and journalists have also used the index to question politicians about their country’s ranking.
The institute is also providing interactive tools to help users quickly identify which factors are contributing to a jurisdiction’s overall money laundering risk level.
Anti-corruption and bribery
Anti-corruption Collective Action
Anti-corruption Collective Action has been championed by the institute and has been a cornerstone of their mission for nearly 20 years. Key recent developments include:
- The OECD endorsed anti-corruption Collective Action in its revised 2021 Anti-Bribery Recommendation.
- 193 UN Member States have committed to support private-sector engagement through Collective Action and public-private partnerships in the Political Declaration following the Special Session of the UN General Assembly Against Corruption (UNGASS 2021).
Asset recovery helps to ensure that perpetrators of corruption can’t enjoy the proceeds of their crimes. Non-conviction based forfeiture (NCBF) laws are emerging as a useful asset recovery tool, and were a strong focus of the institute’s International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) in 2021.
NCBF laws allow courts to confiscate assets of a criminal nature, even where no conviction of an individual has been obtained in relation to criminal conduct. A key example from 2021 is the landmark judgement issued by the Peruvian authorities which involved the confiscation of USD 1.5 million stashed in Mexico by a corrupt Army General who died in 2015 in a Brazilian seaside resort.
The judgment was issued under Peru’s NCBF law, to which ICAR contributed to the drafting and enactment in 2018.
Illicit enrichment laws are another tool that can be used to target unexplained wealth. The institute believes that these laws are underused, and in 2021 published a guide to illicit enrichment legislation around the world and its use to target corruption and recover illicitly obtained assets.
Illicit enrichment laws allow investigators and prosecutors to recover assets from people whose wealth can’t be explained by their lawful income. These laws don’t require proof that any criminal action has taken place before they can be applied.
The institute posits that corruption and other financial crimes, like money laundering, facilitate environmental crime and make it lucrative. Their Green Corruption programme seeks to apply anti-corruption and asset recovery tools to reduce environmental degradation resulting from crimes like illegal wildlife trade, logging, mining and fishing.
Jurisdictions around the world are underperforming in combatting money laundering, bribery and corruption. The use of Non-conviction based forfeiture laws, illicit enrichment laws, Anti-corruption Collective Action, and other tools such as the Basel AML Index may help jurisdictions to better identify and mitigate risks, and ensure that offenders don’t go unpunished.