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StAR: Helping poor countries get their money back

Posted by: Tedstaff

Ngozi_Okonjo-Iweala_TED07.jpg

This week, the UN and the World Bank launched the Stolen Asset Recovery initiative, or StAR — a plan to help poor countries recover funds stolen by corrupt leaders and stashed overseas. According to Reuters:

World Bank estimates that cross-border flow of global proceeds from criminal activities, corruption and tax evasion is between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion.

Meanwhile, 25 percent of the gross domestic product of African states is lost to corruption every year at the cost of about $148 billion.

In her talk at TED2007 in Monterey, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala talks about such stolen national assets, and why recovering them has significance far beyond the money involved. Okonjo-Iweala knows the problem from the inside out: When she was the Finance Minister of Nigeria, she launched an unprecedented suit to recover funds that the dictator Sani Abacha had stashed overseas. After 5 years in court, the suit recovered $500 million from Swiss banks — just a fraction of the estimated $3 billion to $5 billion that Abacha is believed to have stolen, according to AllAfrica.com.

Comments (8)

  • David Akinfolarin commented on Jan 13 2008

    Laudable Initiative from a remarkable woman,but you must understand that corruption is greater than the worlds drug cartels put together.The approach to recovering such loot must be as sophisticated as the system stealing it. Last year I presented a Technology based solution to corruption in Nigeria simply by designing a bio-metric based identification system for credit registries so that everybody in Nigeria that transacts with a bank can be tracked and all company registration and cheques can be monitored,thus if someone should divert government funds he can always be tracked anywhere in the world.However my recommendations were frowned at, such is the nature of corruption in Africa it’s a trillion dollar industry,who has a trillion more to fight it. I ,okonjo Iweala and anyone who is desparate to see a change

  • Paul Disu-Lord commented on Jan 1 2008

    How do we begin to support the FRIENDS OF THE STOLEN ASSET RECOVERYINITIATIVE? 25 percent of the gross domestic product of African states is lost to corruption every year at the cost of about $148 billion is a huge effort. How does Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala et all begin to recover the monies since more is lost daily? My concern is the published $1B recovered out of about a possible $148B. Also, while Ngozi was the Finance Minister of Nigeria, 31/36 governors were using their state treasuries as personal piggy banks. This effort is worth a TED prize.

  • george sabat commented on Sep 28 2007

    Yes, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is right when she tries to recover funds that were stolen by former dictators and their associates.
    However, at the same time, we should not forget that time is running short, for Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general, to wake up and do something to get things moving in the right direction.
    Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala did many good things when she was in charge in her country and she is now effectively spreading the good words around the world.
    Why don’t we start by providing the low-income wage earners in Nigeria with the two most essential things that they crave for: “decent affordable housing and secure jobs that will enable them to become home owners in their own rights?”
    The new Nigerian President has recently declared that there are 70 million homeless Nigerian in the country. Why, nothing is done to remedy that?
    We have a proposal that we have thoroughly described in our web site http://www.affordablehomesnigeria.com. Kindly log in to that site and let me know what you think of it.
    George
    PS: Can someone let me know the email address of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala?

  • Mathieu CYNOBER commented on Sep 25 2007

    Indeed Kelo Kubu, as it is said in many talks, lots of initiatives, trying to help developing countries, trend to be unilateral and it is good to see bilateral initiatives beeing developed. But as said in this article, it is only a small part (and after 5 years in court) that has been recovered in this case. I hope that those actions will not only multipliate in number but also gain in “efficiency” (rapidity, results, …).

  • Donald Hume commented on Sep 24 2007

    If you haven’t watched this clip yet, it’s definitely worth it. Inspiring.

  • ? ? commented on Sep 23 2007

    I agree with what Susan said.The world will get better by that.

  • Kelo Kubu commented on Sep 22 2007

    It is great to see African leaders participating in initiatives like StAR. At this point Ms. Okonjo-Iweala is the only African on the list of “Friends of StAR. I hope more African leaders will join her soon.

  • Susan Plunkett commented on Sep 22 2007

    As the blood flowed out with the money, so may the soul flow back with its recovery.