The Challenges of Recovering Illicit Money

June 24th, 2011


Wikimedia Commons/CCSA

Tom Cardamone, Managing Director of Global Financial Integrity, continues his biweekly series of blog posts with TrustLaw, on efforts to repatriate government funds illicitly transferred overseas by corrupt government officials.  Based on new World Bank and United Nations Office on Drug and Crime data, as well as experiences with past repatriation attempts, he notes “This means, shockingly, that only about 1 percent of all stolen government money is ever seen again.”

Given the low rate of return, and large investment of time and resources financial repatriation requires, he determines that preventing the illegal outflows in the first place is a more effective solution, writing:

[T]he intentions behind the effort are noble in that they are an attempt to make things right for the poorest of the poor among us.

However, “recover stolen assets” would not be at the top of my weekly to-do list. The reason is that the opportunity costs of trying to locate, let alone recover, corrupt proceeds are just too frustratingly, maddeningly, horribly high. Given their complexity and difficulty, efforts to recoup stolen funds are Sisyphean in the extreme.

Rather than ‘recovery’ the watchword should be ‘prevention.’  Better to never start smoking than trying to stop.

Read the rest of the post on the TrustLaw website.  Past posts in Tom Cardamone’s series, featured every other Thursday, can be viewed at his TrustLaw author page.


Written by Dan Hennessey

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