Corruption is the greatest economic and social obstacle for development and commercial integration in the Asia-Pacific region say officials who met in Lima, Peru at an APEC workshop on asset recovery to discuss international cooperation.
Sharing success stories in the fight against corruption, Peru's Minister of Justice shared experiences in the fight against a threat that in last the two decades has been expanded in Asia-Pacific economies.
Explained Minister of Justice, Rosario Fernandez, "Corruption is a phenomenon that brings poverty to economies, weakens democracies and affects a large sector of the population.
"Peru has gained experience in recovering assets and proceeds made from criminal activities and from those who have been protected under the darkness of corruption.
Different measures have been applied both at the policy and judicial levels," explained Minister Fernandez. "Applying due process against people involved in repatriation and freezing illegal accounts is critical to fighting corruption.
"This has been made possible thanks to the intense work of prosecutors, courts and specialized anti-corruption courts in Peru," offered the Minister.
Interacting with one another, workshop participants exchanged information about mutual legal assistance; training; and money laundering and organized crime.
Participants acknowledged that costs for obtaining and sharing prompt information could be high. "It could be months or years to get answers to requests for information," said Mr. Felix Ascencio who is with Chile's Ministry of Justice. "Economies need to strengthen their relationships inside and outside their economies under the principle of multilateral assistance in the fight against corruption."
Others noted that some confuse "asset recovery" with "asset sharing."
"It takes two minutes to transfer a billion dollars [to a bank account] but it could take two years to process a legal assistance request," said Mr. Ang Seow Lian, the Assistant Director of Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. "Direct cooperation between agencies on intelligence is a fast way to deal with critical timelines."
"All agree that we should have better communications channels. Knowing contacts on a personal basis will resolve problems more quickly," suggested Mr. Ang.
Participants recognized that evidence obtained from banking institutions is protected so it is difficult to share with partner domestic agencies.
"There's also a problem with a natural jealousy between agencies that are attacking the same problem," conceded Peru's Financial Intelligence Unit, Gonzalo Alvarado, who spoke on behalf of a group discussing money laundering. "Our common efforts need to put us at the same level to combat these crimes."
Today, participants will examine routes used to hide money coming from corrupt actions in the international financial system, effective cooperation and regulatory frameworks.
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