Funded by the European Union
Returning illicitly-obtained assets to help local communities
The European Union and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) have launched a new programme to bolster the capacity of Eastern Partnership Countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) in order to trace and confiscate assets linked to organised criminal activity. The EU-funded initiative will bring much-needed technical assistance and expertise in hunting down assets linked to organised crime across the six countries.
This project aims at depriving criminals of the proceeds of their crimes, will improve inter-institutional and cross-border coordination in the Eastern Partnership region, specifically in financial crime investigations. Part of the tasks include strengthening the capacity of financial investigators to trace, freeze, seize, confiscate and recover assets in the hands of organised crime rings. Key officials within the Eastern Partnership Countries will benefit from UNICRI long-standing expertise through meticulous needs assessments and highly-specialised training. Peer-to-peer mentoring and regular legal advice to overcome key issues, such as cross-border cooperation to seize and confiscate assets, will be part of the capacity building package.
The United Nations currently estimates that, worldwide, approximately two to five percent of global GDP (€725 billion - €1.8 trillion) is laundered every year, as a result of, and to facilitate, organised criminal activity. This initiative will provide experienced and proven advice and support to officials on how to efficiently capture and liquidate the assets of organised crime rings, and to channel the resulting funds to high-priority development needs, including needs within the health and education sectors.
Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East in the European Commission, indicated that the initiative marks "- a significant step forward in the EU's support for Eastern Partnership countries in addressing their needs to counter many different forms of organised criminal activity, including drug trafficking, human trafficking and migrant smuggling."
Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, interim Director of UNICRI, also highlighted that:
Every region has a different dynamic when it comes to countering organised criminal activity. The field of tracing and confiscating assets is highly technical and is more necessary than ever. Current policies and mechanisms in place in Eastern Partnership countries achieve the freezing or seizure of no more than one percent of the assets linked to money laundering and other organised criminal activity. States can no longer tolerate major losses to their economies as a result of organised criminal activity. Hospitals, schools and other essential services are not being built or provided because of the infestation of criminal enterprises. This initiative will thus provide officials with up-to-date practices to counter and weaken the influence of organised crime, and will serve to capture their illicitly-obtained assets for the benefit of local communities.
The European Union has committed EUR 1.5 million for this initiative, which will cover a three-year period, and will be carried out in close coordination with officials throughout these six countries. The project is part of a larger EUR 10 million investment by the European Union to assist the Eastern Partnership countries.