StAR: Helping poor countries get their money back

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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.