France can return illicit assets of African leaders

After 15 years of fighting by NGOs, France is preparing to adopt a mechanism to return residents assets seized in so-called cases ‘forbidden gain’ by foreign leaders, particularly from Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The ‘forbidden gain’ refer to assets and Public goods embezzled by foreign leaders Or their relatives for personal use: luxury real estate, cars, watches, bank accounts. Once the measure is voted on on Tuesday in the National Assembly and on July 21 in the Senate, a broad project is opened for its implementation in the countries concerned, through development projects.

The France For a long time Featured destination To build this inheritance. In 2008, NGOs drink And the Transparency International File a complaint against the leaders Gabon, The Congo or Equatorial Guineapaving the way for investigations. It concerns the most advanced procedure Teodorin ObiangThe son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, was sentenced on appeal on February 10, 2020 to three years in prison, 30 million euros in fines and confiscation. A ruling from the Court of Cassation is expected on July 28.

Solidarity development

Since 2003, the UN Merida Convention (Mexico), which many states have signed, establishes the principle of returning the fruits of corruption to the looted states. But recovery mechanisms remain rare: they are found especially in United State, at United kingdom Especially since the 2015 law in Switzerland, where it is considered the most successful device.

France, in turn, is preparing to adopt a mechanism through a bill dedicated to… Solidarity development, which will be finally approved on July 21. He expects it “They returned as close as possible to the residents of the foreign country in question”, The “Income from property confiscated from persons finally convicted of money laundering or concealment…”.

Application

In practice, a specific budget line خطThe resale of goods expected in the French budget abounds under the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry. must be funded “Cooperation and Development Procedures”, at “case after case” In the countries concerned, in terms of health, education and gender equality…

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The first concrete case should be that of Equatorial Guinea. With the uncertainty about whether the credits can be shown this fall in the 2022 budget or only in the 2023 budget, it’s time to resell the confiscated goods, Estimated at 150 million euros by NGOs.

It will not be counted ODA t• The usual budget mechanisms will not apply. “There will be no reserve rate (a margin maintained by the state) and there will be an automatic transfer of credits from year to year if they are not amortized.”, confirms a diplomatic source.

respect for sovereignty

Compensation should demonstrate respect for “sovereignty” from the countries concerned and Involving civil society To prevent money from flowing again Corruption circles. A delicate mission in Equatorial Guinea led by Teodoro Obiang Nguema for nearly 42 years. “There is hardly any independent civil society, almost all of our partners there are exiles, and it can be complicated.”, notes Sarah Prembev, of the NGO Transparency, who applauds the future mechanism but it still stands “vigilance”.

According to AFP information, contacts have already been made between France and the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to explain response philosophy. Some parliamentarians regret that the mechanism remains under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The response should not be confused with other diplomatic matters., warns former MP Emily Carrillo.

To return other assets “Illegal”, The “You’ll have to get to know them first.”Lawyer Nicolas Bonucci, a former expert onOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “This will only make sense if France adopts a proactive policy.” Detecting illicit financial flows. As such, the invoice ‘Trust in justice’ Under scrutiny, limiting it to three years of preliminary investigations raises concerns for NGOs Financial investigations are often very complex.

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