On 26 September the Prime Minister announced at the UN General Assembly that the UK will create a new cross-Government taskforce to return assets stolen by members of the former regimes of the Arab spring countries. The taskforce has now started work to accelerate our existing effort to return stolen assets to the Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian people.
We have established a multi-agency team, under a single operational-lead, involving staff from the Home Office, Serious Organised Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service. Leading members of the team have already visited Cairo to forge links with their counterparts in the Egyptian authorities. As well as posting a CPS prosecutor and a Metropolitan police financial investigator to Egypt, we will also post a regional asset recovery adviser to the region to assist the authorities in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
In addition to the operational response, I want to make sure that we have the necessary tools and powers to ensure that the UK is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption. We have already pushed for changes to the EU sanctions regulations, which came into effect on 27 November. They have been amended to allow better information sharing between EU member states and Arab spring countries.
The taskforce will also conduct a review of the UK’s legal framework for providing assistance to other countries seeking to repatriate stolen assets. Michael Beloff QC has been instructed to provide independent expert advice to inform the review.
The taskforce will lead diplomatic work to rebuild the UK’s good reputation on asset recovery, and we will seek opportunities through our G8 Presidency in 2013 to encourage greater partnership working between the G8, Arab spring countries and other regional allies.
This is important work, and we are making good progress, but it will take time to achieve the results we want. Asset recovery requires painstaking work to identify and trace hidden assets, while ensuring the proper judicial processes are followed to confiscate them. There is a moral imperative for this work to be carried out swiftly; the taskforce brings a new energy and focus to this endeavour.