RI needs UN assistance to recover stolen assets

Indonesia is hosting the second session of the conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) from Monday to Friday this week at the Bali International Convention Center. Some 1,000 officials and activists from 120 countries are participating in the event aimed at creating a better international system to jointly fight corruption. The Jakarta Post's Abdul Khalik talked to Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda on how Indonesia can play a role in the conference.

Question: Have we submitted our self-assessment checklist on our compliance with the UN Convention Against Corruption and what weaknesses have we spotted in our battle against corruption?

Answer: Yes. Together with the checklist, we have even submitted our gap analysis on the laws and legal institutions we have and the requirements under the UNCAC. What needs to improve is our law on corruption as it deals only with corruption in the public sector, and is without provisions for corruption committed in the private sector or by corporations.

We need to include private sector corruption into our law as many countries like Singapore and Hong Kong have done that. With this incompatibility, we will have difficulties dealing with those countries when we want to recover our assets or extradite a suspect.

That is only the norm. We need also to empower our existing legal institutions dealing with corruption, such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) or the National Ombudsman Commission, but the question is whether we have an adequate legal system to fight corruption. Fighting corruption is not only about prosecution but also prevention.

We should also improve the capacity of our staff as we have felt that when we conducted efforts to trace and recover stolen assets abroad, we lacked the expertise. So, we need technical assistance from the United Nations.

Is there any dichotomy of interests between developing and developed countries, as speculation has spread, for instance, that developing states want to push for asset recovery first while developed countries want developing countries to fix their domestic prevention system first?

As this convention is dealing more on technical matters with less political sensitivity compared to, for instance, climate change issues, I think the dichotomy is not that big. We can overcome that. You see, no countries can claim themselves to be free of corruption.

So, there is a strong and united will from most participating countries to cooperate in fighting corruption because they realize that it is a disease, and when you don't fight it, it will become a pandemic. A conference like this serves as a medium for cooperation.

The government has announced that stolen assets recovery is one of its priorities. But difficulties in asking for and accepting mutual legal assistance as well as differences in legal systems have hampered asset recovery efforts.

How will the conference bridge these problems?

Most of the countries have agreed that international and regional cooperation as well as a multilateral convention, like UNCAC that allows for cooperation in mutual legal assistance and extradition, have actually much to do to limit the moves of transnational corruptors. All of these links have deterred corruptors and prevented them from finding safe places to hide.

An effective convention will also deter state parties from continuing to enjoy money taken from corruption. In other words, these countries will find it difficult to play out of the system.

The conference aims to establish an agreeable mechanism and forum to find ways to address the problems found in mutual legal assistance and bridge the differences in different domestic legal systems.

Is there any specific mechanism Indonesia has proposed to address these issues?

We have proposed the establishment of a consultative group consisting of experts from developed and developing countries. The group will serve as a forum to discuss all matters related to difficulties found in the mutual legal assistance process and asset recovery in general.

Our proposal has been supported by the G-77 comprising 130 countries, and China. Some developed countries have also backed our proposal. We are very optimistic that we can adopt the mechanism by the end of the conference.

How will UNCAC overcome corruption eradication problems at the bilateral level, including the ongoing discussion with Singapore?

I think a country will have shown its commitment to fight corruption by becoming a party to the convention and the move will boost its image as a committed country. If Singapore is a party then we can cooperate under the convention but if the country is not a party, we can't force them to cooperate. But then public opinion will judge the issue.

What about the StAR (Stolen Assets Recovery) initiative? How can we benefit from this UN program?

StAR is an initiative launched by the World Bank and the United Nations to enhance the capability of developing countries' officials to trace and recover assets. So it is a capacity building program, not an initiative to investigate or confiscate the stolen assets.

We are the first country to apply for the program because we know that we still have poor capacity in tracing and recovering our stolen assets. Tracing and then recovering our assets are not easy and cheap tasks, so we need all assistance we can get.


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