A think tank has called on global leaders to introduce new powers to recover stolen assets from Middle Eastern dictators.
A report by Transparency International claims that a $12 million residential property in London owned by the son of deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is the only illicit asset recovered by UK authorities from corrupt Arab regimes.
The report specifically investigates the UK’s role in recovering stolen assets from Arab Spring states, noting that it took the UK more than five weeks to move against assets linked to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his associates.
UK law enforcement authorities are hampered by a system which is overly dependent on cooperation from the state of origin to recover such assets, the think tank said.
However, a new bill currently before the British House of Commons could bring about change.
Unexplained Wealth Orders, a key provision of the Criminal Finances Bill, “would mark a major step towards empowering UK law enforcement to freeze, seize and return wealth stolen from those countries,” Transparency International said.
It called on all countries to step up action to recover assets obtained illegally and through corrupt, military regimes, and heighten controls on money laundering.
Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, said: “It is astonishing that in the almost six years since the Arab Spring protests began, just one single house has been recovered that was linked to corruption by political elites from these regimes.
“The current flaws in the UK system invites those struggling for human rights and democracy to view our real estate and financial sectors as facilitators of their suffering.”
He added: “The cross-party support that the Government has received for Unexplained Wealth Orders is most encouraging.
“We hope that its passage into law, and agreements such as that with Nigeria, will provide UK law enforcement with the tools they need to recover stolen assets and return them more quickly in the future.”