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 some extensive thought about how the Secretariat could best assist national drug commissions to resolve their perennial problem of inadequate funding for both for their anti-drug law enforcement programs and demand reduction programs, while also supporting 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 around the region, assets seized by member states from drug traffickers and money launderers represent a seriously underutilized resource. Frequently, these seized assets are neither properly administered nor employed to help member states respond to the challenges posed to civil society by the drug trade.
The BIDAL project represents an innovative approach to identifying how a country’s legal and administrative system could better detect and capture 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 initially put forward 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 full Expert Group accepted its working group’s recommendation to prepare 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 itself endorsed this proposal.
The Secretariat recruited a project coordinator, Dennis Chang, who had worked on Asset Management Unit of the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs (ICD), and acquired considerable experience in managing seized and forfeited assets, as featured in an article on the Costa Rica experience. It stationed him in Montevideo so that he could have closer interaction with the national project partners.
Over two years, the project involved working closely with the participating governments, comparing legislation, reviewing the court systems, and analyzing the complex interaction among government entities over the life cycle of an investigation and trial.
The project held two seminars:
The governments of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay offered full cooperation with the initiative. In the Buenos Aires meeting, the counterparts got a first opportunity to share experiences.
At the Lima meeting, the pilot countries' case studies led to broad application of best practices to other countries.
The BIDAL project has proven to be an extraordinarily valuable learning experience for the Executive Secretariat, the project team, its pilot countries and the Money Laundering Expert Group. "With the contributions from all parties involved, it produced with an outcome that surpassed all expectations," said the former CICAD Executive Secretary James Mack.
By applying a systemic, holistic perspective to the entire process, from the investigative phase and asset detection and selection, to forfeiture and allocation, the project team identified key bottlenecks in the investigation, court proceedings, sentencing and asset administrative process, as well as gaps in legislation, regulations and jurisprudence.
As a direct outcome of the pilot project, each of the three countries received specific recommendations for revamping its system and each created an inter-ministerial committee to follow through on those findings.
The Money Laundering Expert Group produced a document of good practices, as well as specific recommendations on training for specialization in money laundering cases (lack of qualified human resources was an issue in all three countries). The Expert Group has proven to be an exceptional forum for brainstorming about this issue. Finally, the Expert Group presented an amendment in CICAD’s model anti-money laundering regulations, which the Commission approved.
BIDAL Central America
Currently, the BIDAL Project is in its second phase (2010-2012), developing in Central America.
In El Salvador and Dominican Republic were made situational diagnoses on countries’ capacities in the identification, tracing and seizure of assets of criminal origin, and an analysis of policy and institutional capacities for the efficient management of these assets. This permitted to develop, through interagency working groups and the Project’s technical assistance, the proposals for the creation and improvement of the management system for seized and forfeited assets in these countries.
In addition, national workshops have been implemented in some countries on the theme of patrimonial research and management of assets of criminal origin, aimed at police, prosecutors, judges and custom officials, immigration and management agencies for seized and forfeited assets. In March 2012, for example, was conducted a national workshop in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Particularly, in June 2012, a BIDAL Project’s Regional Workshop was made in San Jose, Costa Rica, which was the first meeting of asset management agencies of Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic, where participants had the opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices in management of seized and forfeited assets. This workshop involved over 50 people from various countries in the region, among them Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Dominican Republic.
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 launderers harder where it hurts — 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 agenda 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 disposition of seized and forfeited assets, which aims to improve the knowledge and technical capabilities of officials who conduct financial and capital investigations and take part in forfeiture proceedings, management and allocation of assets of illicit origin.
updated on 9/19/2012 12:08:20 PM