Sovereign Asset Wealth Recovery Programmes Require Cohesion to Achieve Success

27 April 2012 – 

The notion of sovereign asset wealth recovery programmes needs to be incorporated within defence and international development doctrine, alongside a recognition of the critical role private enterprise should play.

'Plundering the treasure chest: The theft of sovereign asset wealth and the role of private enterprise in asset recovery programmes', launched by Grant Thornton UK LLP today and written in conjunction with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and international law firm Edwards Wildman, is the first time the complex practices of sovereign asset wealth recovery has been brought together in one document. The paper makes the case that the practice of tracing and returning stolen sovereign assets is critical to notions of stability, security and prosperity, both of a developing state and the wider international community. It also calls for the development of a robust set of governmental policies and practices to become a key component of the state’s broader defence and international development capabilities.

Each year, the cross-border flow of proceeds from corruption and organised crime are estimated by the World Bank to be in the region of US$1.6 trillion. Corrupt politicians and officials in developing and transitional countries account for around US$40 billion of this figure. The recovery of sovereign national wealth assets is a major security and development issue for fragile states, young democracies and the wider international community alike. However there is currently no coherent coalition to combat the threat posed by corrupt political elites and international crime.

'Plundering the Treasure Chest' has been written from the perspective of a leading expert in investigating stolen and misappropriated assets, a major international commercial litigator and a senior defence analyst, and provides a route-map for the practice of sovereign wealth recovery.

Dr John Louth, Deputy Director, RUSI comments: “Corrupt leaders often plunder a country’s sovereign wealth, leaving its people poorer. This paper outlines through practical insight why it is essential to success to implement a cohesive approach from governments in conjunction with the legal and accounting profession. It also conceptualises the subject as a critical component of national defence capabilities. If we understand how a fragile, transitioning state can fund its future economic development through the recovery of its stolen sovereign wealth, this can help the international community to plan sensible interventions when necessary."

Kevin Hellard, Partner, Grant Thornton UK LLP, comments: "Understanding the globalised nature of corruption, and the sovereign wealth recovery programmes and activities designed to combat its practices and effects, is pivotal. Even more so given that this subject has become a critical global stability and national security issue, especially post-conflict. As first-world powers withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and as the international community addresses development and security questions posed by the Arab Spring, recovering plundered wealth to fragile, transitioning countries is a major enabler to eventually getting a country standing back on its own two feet."

James Maton, Litigation partner, Edwards Wildman concludes: "There are a range of criminal and civil mechanisms for sovereign wealth recovery, each with advantages and disadvantages. An effective recovery programme needs the flexibility to use the range of skills found in the public and private sectors to ensure the most effective mechanism is used for the particular circumstances of a case. In this paper we clearly map out the complementary roles that national governments in partnership with each other, law-enforcement agencies, international financial regulators, professional bodies, private sector practitioners, and the military can play."

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For further information, please contact:

Grant Thornton: Wendy Watherston, Manager on +44 (0)20 7728 2309 or +44 (0)7810 656184 or

Notes to editors:

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RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP is an international law firm established October 1, 2011, upon the merger of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP and Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon LLP. With 650 lawyers, and 14 offices across three continents, Edwards Wildman lawyers are known for their strength  in complex litigation, fraud and asset tracing, insurance and reinsurance, private equity, venture capital, corporate and finance transactions and intellectual property. Edwards Wildman has offices in London, Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Los Angeles, Madison (NJ), New York, Newport Beach, Providence, Stamford, Tokyo, Washington, DC, and West Palm Beach, and an associated office in Hong Kong.

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