The “#gotagohome” campaign that started a few weeks back demanding the President to step down from office, was escalated to “#gotagohome and give back our money”. The people are not merely wanting a regime change but demanding in one voice that the “national wealth stolen by the rulers be paid back”.
The questions that are looming in many a mind is how does one retrieve stolen assets? Is there a mechanism to bring back money that has been siphoned off? Do we have adequate laws to engage in this exercise? Do we need new laws?
The process of asset recovery can be broken down to three main stages: identifying and tracing assets; freezing and confiscating assets; and recovering and returning assets to their rightful owners.
Identifying assets being the first step, is not simple, as any wrongdoer would invariably take measures to complicate the tracing of hidden funds in order to prevent it being retrieved. In addition, even where funds are traced, it would also be necessary to prove that the assets were unlawfully acquired.
Tracing assets would require conducting investigations to gather evidence to link the asset and the wrongful act by which the asset was acquired.