- February 9, 2021
- Posted by: Dejana Grbic-Velagic
- Category: RAI News
The webinar was organised within the Regional Project “Strengthening anti-corruption in the South East Europe through improving asset seizure measures” implemented by the AIRE Centre and the RAI Secretariat, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom. Judges, prosecutors, and asset recovery practitioners from Asset Recovery Offices and Asset Management Agencies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia took part in the webinar.
The webinar was designed to further build expertise amongst prosecutors, judges and asset recovery practitioners and to facilitate the exchange of good practices. Distinguished speakers from the Western Balkans region and the UK presented and discussed with the participants the international and European legal standards and the European Court of Human Rights case-law in the field of asset recovery. Legal challenges to jurisprudence were also discussed and illustrated with case studies from the region.
In the opening remarks, Mr. Vladan Joksimovic, Head of RAI Secretariat, reflected on the excellent cooperation with the AIRE Centre, and the joint 2-year Regional Project on asset recovery. The Project was designed on the basis of comprehensive review and analysis of search, seizure and confiscation of illegally obtained assets conducted by the AIRE Centre and RAI Secretariat.
Ms. Biljana Braithwaite, Director of the Western Balkans Programme at the AIRE Centre opened the webinar recalling the importance of regional cooperation in the matters of asset recovery, as corruption and organized crime affect every society. She added that the recent data of EUROPOL shows that illicit proceeds of crime in Europe alone amount close to 1 billion euros. Only 1% or 2% of these end up being seized on annual basis. She emphasizes asset recovery as a crucial weapon to all jurisdictions that struggle with seizing meaningful amount of assets.
Project aimed to improve asset seizure measures in SEE with opportunity to judges and prosecutors to strengthen their knowledge in the area of international practices and practices and to trade their knowledge and build regional networks. The webinar focused on regional and European legal standards and good practices.
His Honour Judge Michael Hopmeier, HHJ at Southwark Crown Court, London, UK, gave a presentation on seizing and confiscating the assets of criminals explaining why, when and how it is done. The presentation was structured to include criminal confiscations, civil asset recovery and unexplained wealth orders, mechanism that is relatively new in the UK, although UK asset recovery legislation is much older than the EU legislation. HHJ Hopmeier underlined the importance of cooperation in this area of law since every county is struggling with recovering assets that have been stolen a corrupted money.
He mentioned that many publications that set out the effects of pandemic on crime and accented that criminals are using the pandemic to exploit the weaknesses in governments and added that new forms of fraud such as fake vaccines and so-called romantic crimes have emerged. He compared the American and Chinese punitive systems with European. Unlike America and China, the UK has significantly lower penalties for fraud offences, thus fraudsters are more concerned in relation to the confiscation of property. Effective and successful asset recovery has the potential to protect the legitimate economy from corruption, to generate the assets that can be used for the public good, and to assist in upholding the rule of law.
Judge Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska spoke about Asset Recovery Measures and Human Rights Standards from ECtHR Case-law Perspective. Case-law European law on human rights definition on confiscation as the final deprivation of property by order of the court and this definition indicates that this is flexible concept. Confiscation is recognized as a powerful weapon in the fight against serious crime and corruption. She also mentioned some of the national instruments of asset recovery and relevant international instruments, and conventions, including the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) and the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) 2005.
Dr Eldan Mujanovic, the professor on the University of Sarajevo, Faculty for Criminalistics, Criminology and Security Studies and Criminal Policy Research Center explained how in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the institute of extended confiscation of property is mentioned for the first time in 2010. The reasons for this are the simplification of procedures given the numerous difficulties in determining the link between the particular act committed and the proceeds of the act.
Some of the reasons for standardizing the extended confiscation of property stated by Professor Mujanovic are the reduction of evidence in terms of concretization of the crime, focusing on property instead of the crime, the assumption that the disputed property originates from previous criminal activity for which no fasting.
Judge Radmila Dragicevic – Dicic of the Supreme Cassation Court of the Republic of Serbia spoke about the Criminal Code, in relation to the special measures of confiscation of proceeds of crime and referred to the proceeds of the criminal offenses in a trial. She reflected on the options of the Serbian criminal code, including the option for confiscating the substitute assets related to the proceeds of crime. She concluded on a high note, reminding all participants that all available instruments should be used to perform effective extended asset recovery.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.