Presentations at CICAD meetings
OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza launched the initiative to improve public administration of seized and forfeited assets in 2007.
The Seized and Forfeited Asset Management project, which is known by its Spanish acronym BIDAL, is an example of a new kind of initiative that the CICAD Executive Secretariat and member states put into motion after carefully analyzing how the Secretariat could best assist national drug commissions to resolve their recurring problem with inadequate funding for both anti-drug law enforcement programs and demand reduction programs, while also pursuing the main objective of asset seizure, which is to deprive money launderers and traffickers of the profits resulting from their illegal activities.
Based on CICAD's experience and that of many experts in the region, assets seized by member states from drug traffickers and money launderers constitute a seriously underutilized resource. Frequently, these seized assets are neither properly managed nor used to help member States respond to the challenges that the drug trade poses to civil society.
The BIDAL project represents an innovative approach to identifying how a country’s legal and administrative system could better detect and seize the illegal proceeds resulting from drug trafficking and money laundering, then manage seized assets more efficiently by applying a set of standard but flexible measures, and finally channel those resources into drug control measures and other programs.
The Executive Secretariat presented a concept paper to OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, who immediately saw the value of this initiative. He endorsed the idea wholeheartedly first at the 39th regular session of CICAD, and then again at the OAS General Assembly in Santo Domingo in June 2006.
In the next phase, a special working group on asset seizure and administration within the Expert Group on the Control of Money Laundering analyzed relevant legislation and experiences of several countries. Then, the Experts Group as a whole accepted the working group’s recommendation to develop a pilot project centered on three countries, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, chosen because of the relative similarity in their legal systems and their geographic proximity. At CICAD 43 (May 2008), the Commission approved this proposal.
The objective of the BIDAL project is to support countries in building and strengthening these units, enhancing their ability to detect, seize and forfeit assets based on the principles of transparency, efficiency and coordination with other related agencies with the framework of the legal instrument of forfeiture. Once the project is completed, the beneficiary countries will have a clear vision of the current situation regarding the legal and procedural frameworks for the seizure and administration of property of illegal origin, the powers of each of the agencies involved in the process and will have strengthened the Units for the Management of Confiscated Assets and specific procedures to receive, manage and temporarily or permanently dispose of the property in their custody.
The project's philosophy is based on the efficient administration of confiscated property ensuring that the Units for the Management of Confiscated Asset are not only financially self-sufficient but also generate significant resources for the State to fund other initiatives in adressing the drug problem. To achieve this objective, the project methodology includes the development of expertise and the sharing of experiences and good practices in this type of policy with other similar units in the region.
The Secretariat recruited a project coordinator, who had worked in the Asset Management Unit of the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs (ICD) and acquired considerable experience in managing seized and forfeited assets.
The first stage of BIDAL took place in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay (2008-2010) and the second in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic (2010-2013). Here are some of the main results of the two stages of the project:
In Argentina, Decree 826/2011 was issued, instituting the National Register of Seized and Confiscated Assets during the criminal process, whose main function is the identification, registration, valuation and location of all of the assets seized, forfeited or subject to an injunction in the course of criminal proceedings. Further modifications were made to Article 305 of the Criminal Code by introducing the topic of "confiscation without sentence or conviction" with Law 26.683 published in the official gazette on June 21, 2011. Additionally, through the seminars held in Buenos Aires the Manual of Asset Investigation of the Public Prosecutor's Office was developed, which allowed for the replication of the seminars and workshops on equity research and asset management for more than 400 officials, prosecutors and judges.
In Chile, the BIDAL project conducted a diagnostic assessment of the national situation in the field of identification, location, management, and use of seized and forfeited assets that allowed national authorities and the Public Prosecutor, the Investigative Police of the country and the defunct CONACE, to identify weaknesses in each of its processes for which the project BIDAL gave a series of recommendations and a proposal to change its legislation and create a specialized agency for the management of organized crime assets.
In the case of Uruguay, the project had a direct effect on the enactment of Law 18494, which incorporated among other policy provisions the Full Right Forfeiture and some others related to the abandonment and administration of seized and forfeited assets. Additionally, the provisions related to the Confiscated Assets Fund of the National Drugs Board were amended by Law 18362 and the Regulation of the Forfeited Assets Fund was created through Executive Decree 339-2010, which provides the framework which establishes the procedures for the efficient management of seized and forfeited assets.
The governments of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay cooperated fully in the pilot project. At the meeting in Buenos Aires, the partners had their first opportunity to share their experiences.
Additionally in this stage of the work with the coordination and support of the Group of Experts for the Control of Money Laundering and Confiscation, CICAD / OAS, a study was conducted that was eventually named "Document on Best Practices of Systems for the Management of Seized and Forfeited Assets in Latin America", which is the only reference document in Latin America and serves as a reference to the countries on the issue of creation and development of property management systems.
In its second phase, the BIDAL project provided technical assistance in El Salvador and worked closely in coordination with many national institutions of the three branches of El Salvador, for the promulgation of Decree 534, called "Law of Forfeiture" and mainly with regards to the creation and legal status of the National Asset Management Council (CONABI) and the special provisions on the administration of seized and forfeited assets. At the meeting in Lima, the examples of the pilot countries led to a wider application of best practices in other countries.
At the Lima meeting, the pilot countries' case studies led to broad application of best practices to other countries.
In the case of the Dominican Republic the project carried out a diagnostic assessment to identify weaknesses in the confiscation system and the current agency for the management of seized and confiscated assets, for which a proposal has been submitted to support the improvement of the interagency working group created to this end.
As in the previous phase, the Project with the coordination and support of the Group of Experts for the Control of Money Laundering and Confiscation of CICAD / OAS, produced two documents called "Regulatory Aspects of the creation and development of agencies specializing in administration of seized and forfeited assets" and "Guide for Self-Assessment of the Confiscation and Asset Management System"
At the regional level, the BIDAL Project was supported by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) in the preparation of the Model Law on Forfeiture, an important tool for States that plan on incorporating this instrument in their national legislation, supported the Program of Cooperation between Latin America and the European Union in Drug Policy (COPOLAD) and participated actively with UNODC in the proposal for the establishment and development of the Asset Recovery Network of the South American Financial Action Group (RRAG) for international cooperation in the identification, tracking, tracing and recovery of assets from organized crime activities.
In conclusion, a modern, efficient, fair legal system can aggressively prosecute criminal organizations, disrupting their operations and depriving them of their profits, while ensuring that society recovers from the social and economic damage caused by these illegal activities. With adequate resources to expand the BIDAL project to a hemispheric scale, Member States will hit the drug traffickers and money laundering organizations where it hurts the most — their wallets. National drug commissions could have access to significantly increased revenue sources for internal use, and also make annual contributions to the CICAD Secretariat to carry out an ambitious plan of cooperation, training, evaluation and analysis for Member States.
Currently, CICAD offers technical assistance to Member States interested in creating and/or improving their seized and forfeited asset administration units. The objective is to help them strengthen their recovery mechanisms for assets and products linked to drug trafficking and money laundering. It also promotes the exchange of experience, information and best practices in asset administration among member states and stimulates further discussion about national and international cooperation in areas such as the detection, identification, seizure and forfeiture of assets found abroad.
In addition, best practices and other knowledge that have been acquired during both phases of the project are being shared with specialized agencies through training workshops. The project team developed and implemented coursework on the maintenance, protection and disposal of seized and forfeited assets, which aims to improve the knowledge and technical capabilities of officials who conduct financial and asset investigations and take part in forfeiture proceedings, management and allocation of assets of illicit origin.
updated on 6/11/2014 2:09:08 PM