Friday, September 30, 2011

StAR Database

Launched today by the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative, a joint program of the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the StAR Asset Recovery Watch is a research project that systematically compiles information on past and current recovery cases involving corruption.  It details 75 cases involving 52 countries of origin of corrupt public officials and 34 jurisdictions from which stolen assets have been recovered since 1980

Saturday, June 12, 2010

StAR arrives in Maldives

A report from the Maldives’ national auditor released in 2009 reads like a guidebook on self-enrichment. The president’s spending was “out of control,” it said, as Mr. Gayoom used his power to live a lavish lifestyle and extend largesse to those around him.

An estimated $9.5 million was spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president; $17 million was spent on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses. Mr. Gayoom built a saltwater swimming pool, a badminton court and a gymnasium, and he bought 11 speed boats and at least 55 cars — including the country’s only Mercedes-Benz, the audit said.

The Maldives, a series of atolls, has a land mass about 1.7 times the size of Washington, including many uninhabited islands. In terms of gross domestic product per capita it ranks 152nd in the world, according to the C.I.A.

And the list goes on, from Loro Piana suits and trousers to watches and hefty bills for medical services in Singapore for “important people” and their families. There was a $70,000 trip to Dubai by the first lady in 2007, a $20,000 bill for a member of the family of the former president to stay a week at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore. On one occasion, diapers were sent to the islands by airfreight from Britain for Mr. Gayoom’s grandson.

Even allocations made to Mr. Gayoom’s office for welfare distribution were spent on the president’s family and their friends, senior government staff members and their friends and members of Parliament, according to the report....

The Maldives government is beginning the paper chase, but it lacks resources to unravel a complex trail that it assumes runs through the British Channel Islands, Singapore and Malaysia.

Help is coming, notably from the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, or StAR, run by the World Bank and the United Nations.

The program estimates conservatively that $20 billion to $40 billion is stolen annually from developing countries through bribery, misappropriation and corruption. That figure represents about 15 percent to 30 percent of aid to the developing world...

Ali Hashim, finance minister of the Maldives, added, “The banks and other institutions that came from abroad, they lowered their standards to the standards that were in the country.”

Under the old regime, some foreign bank managers were given free holidays on luxury tourist resorts on the islands, he said, which might have made it “hard for those managers to subsequently turn down risky or inappropriate credit requests.”...

In the Maldives, the government wants its money back to help offset the decline in tourism, which has been hit by the global downturn, and to plug a budget deficit estimated last year at 34 percent of G.D.P. “What we are asking the World Bank is, help us get this back,” Mr. Hashim said. “Then we won’t need to have that much” foreign aid, he said.
-Going After Government Looters

Can Corruption Adversely Affect Public Finances in Industrialized Countries?

No Safe Havens: A Global Forum on Stolen Asset Recovery and Development, June 8-9, 2010 - Paris, France;
On June 8-9, StAR will partner with the Swiss Government to hold the first high-level global forum dedicated to this issue. The event will be open to the media, and speakers will include: World Bank Managing Director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland, Micheline Calmy-Rey; Minister of Finance, France, Christine Lagarde; Minister of Justice, South Africa, Jeffrey Radebe; Minister of Finance, Republic of Maldives, Ali Hashim; Comptroller General, Brazil, Jorge Hage, and civil society leaders Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Akere Mune, Vice Chair of Transparency International.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Honesty Cafes- can it work?

As the New York Times recently reported, the attorney general's office in Indonesia has been opening thousands of "honesty cafes" as part of its anticorruption campaign.

The idea is that these cashier-free cafes will teach people to be honest and curb the country's corruption problem (which pervades business, politics, and education) by inducing residents - especially the young - to get into the habit of practicing honesty. As the Times reports, "...the cafes are meant to force people to think constantly about whether they are being honest and, presumably, make them feel guilty if they are not."

But may be,

'With honesty cafés widespread, residents will have more temptations to cheat, more occasion to cheat, and maybe this will make it such that they will find it easier to cheat again in other contexts.

Maybe these cafes are a good idea, maybe it will not have any effect, but I worry that it might make things worse.