Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation - European Approaches
In line with Better Regulation principles, the Commission has decided to launch a public consultation to gather stakeholder views on the possible enhancements to the EU anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism framework (AML).
TI-S, TI-EU and other representatives of the global anti-corruption movement of Transparency International among which is TI-Bulgaria are preparing a draft for a joint response which will be sent to the European Commission.
Transparency International calls on the EU to reform its framework for freezing and confiscation of illicit assets through simplifying the procedures for mutual recognition of both freezing and confiscation orders issued in other Member States and adoption of minimum common standards.
As part of the review of the Directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the EU, the EU should consider addressing the return of confiscated assets in cross-border corruption cases and in doing so, introducing principles for the management, transfer and ultimate use of confiscated assets.
The processes of confiscation of illegally acquired property, initiated by the Member States, must at all stages respect the principles of transparency, accountability, solidarity, integrity and efficiency, which should be the basis for any future regulation of the recovery of property.
Transparency International – Bulgaria continues to work and supports these efforts at the national level, insisting on the need for a well-managed and inclusive process in the fight against confiscation of illegally assets, money laundering and organized crime.
The European Commission has adopted a package of measures to strengthen the EU’s capacity to fight the financing of terrorism, organised crime and money laundering.
In 2015 three chapters of Transparency International – in Bulgaria, Romania and Italy proposed recommendations for improvement of the current EU legal framework for freezing and confiscation of illicit assets through simplifying the procedures for mutual recognition of both freezing and confiscation orders issued in other Member States and adoption of minimum common standards.
The proposal for new Regulation to strengthen the mutual recognition of criminal asset freezing and confiscation orders widens the scope of the current rules on cross-border recognition covering all types of freezing and confiscation orders issued in the framework of criminal proceedings, including extended confiscation, third-party confiscation and non-conviction based confiscation. In order to speed and increase the efficiency of the mechanism the document provides for clear deadlines and standardised forms for mutual recognition of confiscation and freezing orders.
Although the proposal envisages only procedures for freezing and confiscation within the framework of criminal proceedings, we appreciate EC’s efforts and admit them as a step in the right direction. In case of Bulgaria, it is of considerable importance that similar mechanisms are established for confiscation based on civil proceedings. These will enhance the effectiveness of the Bulgarian Confiscation Act enforcement.
The proposal will now be reviewed and possibly amended by the European Parliament and national governments.
On April 28th 2015, in Sofia, Bulgaria, an international conference “Forfeiture of Illegal Assets: Models to Combat Serious Crime in the EU” took place. The event was hosted by the national chapter for Bulgaria of the international movement for fight against corruption Transparency International.
The conference was opened by the President of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, Ms. Tsetska Tsacheva. Among other official guests and speakers were also Mr. Ognyan Minchev, President of the Board of TI – Bulgaria, Mr. Plamen Georgiev, President of the Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture and Ms. Anne Koch, Regional director for Europe and Central Asia of Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin.
Among participants at the event were also Mr. Ivan Ivanov, Vice-president of the National Assembly, Mr. Danail Kirilov, Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament, MPs, judges of the Constitutional Court, magistrates, representatives of the Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture, the National Revenue Agency, experts, representative of the National Crime Agency of the UK, diplomats, representatives of civil society organisations and media.
During the conference national models for confiscation/forfeiture of criminal and illegal assets in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria were presented. The national models for asset confiscation/forfeiture of Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy were compared to the ‘ideal national model’ developed by the project partners in a thorough analysis.
The afternoon session of the event was dedicated to the non-conviction based confiscation model in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian approach, as well as proposals for changes in the existing legislation, were discussed.
The conference is the closing event of the two-year project “Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation – European Approaches” of Transparency International – Bulgaria, which is realised in partnership with the national chapters of Transparency International in Romania and Italy. The initiative is co-financed by the “Prevention of and Fight against Crime” programme carried out by DG Home Affairs of the European Commission.
Nick Maxwell, Transparency International – UK
Anne Scheltema Beduin, Transparency International – Netherlands
Dr. Johann Kubica, Transparency International – Germany
Giorgio Fraschini, Transparency International – Italy
Iulia Coşpănaru, Transparency International – Romania
Asoc. Prof. Antoniy Galabov, New Bulgarian University
Transparency International – Bulgaria organizes an International Conference “Forfeiture of Illegal Assets: Models to Combat Serious Crime in the EU”. The event will take place on April 28th, Tuesday, at 9.30 a.m. in Sofia conference hall in Grand Hotel Sofia, 1, Gurko Str., Sofia.
The Conference will be opened by Ms. Tsetska Tsacheva, President of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, Mr. Plamen Georgiev, President of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, and Ms. Anne Koch, representative of the Transparency International – Secretariat in Berlin.
The national models for asset confiscation/forfeiture of Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy will be compared to the ‘ideal national model’ developed by the project partners in a thorough analysis. Representatives of the national chapters of Transparency International in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany will also present different models of asset confiscation/forfeiture in the respective EU Member States.
The International Conference is the closing event of a two-year initiative “Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation – European Approaches” of Transparency International Bulgaria, which has been accomplished in partnership with the national chapters of Transparency International in Romania and Italy. The project is co-funded by the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Union.
For further details you may contact Ms. Ecaterina Camenscic, the project coordinator via telephone +359 2 9867713, +359 2 9867920 or via e-mail ecaterina(at)transparency.bg.
Today, March 31st 2015, at the Conference Hall of the House of Europe in Sofia a round-table discussion “Forfeiture of Illegal Assets: European Perspectives in the Combat against Serious Crime” took place.
The round-table discussion follows a public discussion dedicated to the subject of confiscation/ forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets that took place in Brussels, Belgium last week with the active participation of the Vice-president of the European Commission, other representatives of European Commission, members of the European Parliament, experts, NGOs, etc.
Among the guests of the event in Sofia, were constitutional judges, the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Members of the Parliament, representatives of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, experts, representatives of civil society, ambassadors and media.
The event was opened by Mr. Kalin Slavov, Executive Director of TI – Bulgaria, who said, that Bulgaria is among EU Member States which apply non-conviction based confiscation model, which gives an advantage in prosecution of the organised crime groups’ ill-gotten gains, which are usually hard to be reached.
Mr. Ognyan Zlatev, Head of the European Commission Representation Office to Bulgaria, who was among official guests on the event, emphasized on the important role of the criminal and illegal assets confiscation in EU context. According to Mr. Zlatev common EU policy on this issue should be further developed because of the overspread of transnational crime.
In his speech Mr. Plamen Georgiev, President of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, pointed out that CIAF’s results increase progressively every year. Mr. Georgiev announced Commission’s proposal to decrease the threshold amount between suspect’s identified assets and lawfully acquired income to 120 000 leva (now 250 000 leva). CIAF President also said that the new Bulgarian legislation has its deficiencies but the Commission is undertaking steps to suggest improvements.
Ms. Diana Kovatcheva, former Minister of Justice of Bulgaria, presented the Policy Paper suggesting an “ideal national model” for confiscation/ forfeiture of assets. The model is based on the principles of transparency, efficiency and protection of human rights. It also contains all the advantages of existing national models, which have proven their efficiency, and tend to avoid their weak points. In addition the Policy paper provides recommendations for improvement of the regulation of confiscation/ forfeiture of assets at EU level which could contribute to easier mutual recognition of judicial decisions, identification and freezing of assets.
In her presentation Ms. Kovatcheva pointed out that Bulgarian legislation is quite modern and outstanding compared to the legal framework in the majority of MSs. This is why it goes beyond the scope of the current Directive 2014/42/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union adopted in April 2014. This demands further development of the legislation on EU level in view of the adoption of common standards to encompass all existing models of confiscation/ forfeiture existing in the EU MSs, the mutual recognition of court decisions and identification and management of assets located in other MSs.
In the course of the round-table discussion Mr. Krum Zarkov presented a comparative analysis of the models for confiscation/forfeiture of illegal assets in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania. Assoc. prof. Antoniy Galabov was also among key-note speakers. He pointed out the significance of civil monitoring over the work of confiscation authorities as a key factor in the process of forfeiture since it can put pressure for higher level of transparency, integrity, accountability and effectiveness of the procedures for confiscation/ forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets.
During the event before Bulgarian audience the Comparative report elaborated by researchers’ teams of the national chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania was presented. The report includes summaries of the three national models of confiscation/ forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets and the conclusions from the civil monitoring on the confiscation procedures in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.
The initiative is part of the “Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation – European Approaches” project implemented by Transparency International Bulgaria, Italy and Romania with the financial support of the European Commission.
On March 24th 2015, at the Press Club Brussels Europe in Brussels a public event “Confiscation of Criminal and Illegal Assets: European Perspectives in Combat against Serious Crime” took place. Among official guests and speakers were Vice-president of the European Commission Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Member of the Presidency of the European Parliament Mr. Andrey Kovatchev, and Ms. Diana Kovatcheva, MBE, former Minister of Justice to Bulgaria. The conference was also attended by H.E. Mr. Dimiter Tzantchev, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union, representatives of the European Commission, members of the European Parliament, experts, civil society representatives and media.
The event was organised by the national chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania and was dedicated to the topic of confiscation and forfeiture of criminal and illegal assets as a tool for fight against serious crime.
During the event a Policy paper elaborated by Transparency International chapters with the “Ideal national model” for confiscation/forfeiture of assets, was presented by Ms. Diana Kovatcheva, former Minister of Justice for Bulgaria. The model is based on the principles of transparency, efficiency and protection of human rights and contains all the advantages of existing national models, which have proven their efficiency, and tend to avoid their weak points.
In her presentation Ms. Kovatcheva said that the confiscation/forfeiture of criminal or illegal assets is considered as a very effective way to fight organised crime, which is essentially profit-driven. She stressed on the fact that “the existing EU model takes account of the peculiarities of the models for confiscation of proceeds of crime (criminal assets). However, it almost entirely ignores the models based on the concept of illegal asset forfeiture, and the so called non-conviction based confiscation, since they do not require a link between a specific crime and assets deriving from it”.
“The issue of confiscation of assets acquired through criminal activity is directly linked to the viability of the EU”, said Commissioner Georgieva. “The existence of organized crime and corruption affects fundamental European values. Corruption deprives our societies of billions of euros each year and hinders the competitiveness of the economy. The best way to solve this issue is aggressive policy of seizing property acquired through criminal activity”, Ms. Georgieva said.
MEP Andrey Kovatchev said that the lack of justice feeds populism. “This is why stronger common European rules for confiscation of illegal assets and more efficient judicial cooperation at EU level are needed. Each and every lost or stolen euro represents a missed opportunity for more jobs and stronger economics”, Mr. Kovatchev pointed out.
Transparency International suggested elaboration of common standards at EU level aiming at improvement of the tracing, seizure, confiscation and management of assets, subject to confiscation at national level. This is especially needed as far as the European cooperation is concerned in cases of transnational crimes and of assets that are located outside the boundaries of the confiscating state.
The event was used as an opportunity for Transparency International Bulgaria, Romania and Italy to present a Comparative report including summaries of the three national models of confiscation/forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets, as well as the findings from the monitoring of the activities of the national confiscation/forfeiture authorities in the three countries, being also Member States of the EU.
Transparency International – Bulgaria will host a roundtable discussion “Forfeiture of Illegal Assets: European Perspectives in the Combat against Serious Crime”.
The roundtable will be held on the March 31, 2015 from 15.00 h at the Conference hall of the House of Europe, 124 “G. S. Rakovski” str., Sofia, Bulgaria.
Mr. Ognyan Zlatev, Head of the European Commission Representation Office to Bulgaria and Mr. Plamen Georgiev, President of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture shall open the event. Among speakers will be Assoc. prof. Antoniy Galabov, Ms. Diana Kovatcheva, MBE, former Minister of Justice of Bulgaria and Mr. Krum Zarkov.
During the event a Comparative Report and a Policy Paper elaborated by researchers’ teams of the national chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania will be presented before Bulgarian audience.
Last week both documents were presented in Brussels, Belgium before representatives of European Commission, members of the European Parliament, experts and NGOs at a conference on the confiscation/forfeiture of criminal and illegal assets as a tool to combat serious crime.
On March 24, 2015 national chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy will conduct an event dedicated to the subject of the confiscation and forfeiture of criminal and illegal assets as a tool for fighting against serious crime. The event “Confiscation of Criminal and Illegal Assets: European Perspectives in Combat against Serious Crime” will be held in the Press Club Brussels Europe in Brussels, Belgium.
The event will be hosted by MEP Andrey Kovatchev and co-organised by Transparency International – Bulgaria, Transparency International – Italy and Transparency International – Romania with the kind support of the EU Liaison Office of Transparency International in Brussels.
The Vice-president of the European Commission for Budget and Human Resources, Ms. Kristalina Georgieva shall open the event.
Members of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, experts and civil society organizations and media representatives are all invited to join the event.
In the course of the event, an “ideal model” for confiscation and forfeiture of assets on national level will be presented. This model is bound on the principles of transparency, efficiency and respect for human rights. The model includes a number of standards and recommendations, which are meant to improve the confiscation of criminal and illegal assets procedures in EU Member States.
We launch a discussion about the future increase of the common standards at EU level for confiscation of assets with illegal or criminal origin. Higher EU standards are a challenge but they are needed to ensure a smoother and faster cooperation among Member States’ National Asset Recovery Offices. They will contribute to easier recognition of judicial decisions, identification, freezing and management of assets. In addition, they will better support the Member States in their aim to prevent further investment of organized criminal groups’ financial resources in future criminal activities.
On the November 28th 2014, Transparency International – Bulgaria will host a round-table discussion „European and National Challenges in the Management of Forfeited Assets”. The event will take place in “Sofia” conference hall of Grand Hotel Sofia, starting at 10:00 am.
Among the discussion participants will be the Chairperson of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, members of the Interdepartmental Board for Forfeited Assets Management, as well as representatives from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, appellate and regional courts, members of Parliament, diplomats, NGO sector and the media.
The subject of the discussion derives from the significant role of the management of confiscated assets in Bulgaria through the procedure of “civil confiscation”, as well as the series of deficiencies, which emerged in the analysis of the process. The discussion will also focus on the existing good practices in other European countries, which can be used in the process of fine-tuning of the Bulgarian model.
The event is part of the second stage of the activities under the Illegal Assets Confiscation Project – independent civil monitoring, taking place in the period between May 2014 and January 2015. The civil monitoring includes analysis of the work of institutions with responsibilities in the procedures for confiscation of illegal assets, in terms of transparency, accountability and integrity, as well as monitoring of legal cases on the subject. The monitoring is carried out by a single methodology within three EU member states – Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.
During the process of civil monitoring of the practices in the implementation of the new Forfeiture of Illegal Assets Act, the Bulgarian team held a series of expert meetings and interviews with representatives of the institutions. Significant deficits were identified in the stage of management of seized, as well as forfeited assets. Additional information on the analysis results of this specific activity, and the recommendations for overcoming of the outlined deficits can be accessed in the report by the experts of Transparency International – Bulgaria in the “Monitoring” section (Bulgarian language only).
Transparency International – Bulgaria, Transparency International – Italy and Transparency International – Romania present the Legal Researches of their national models for Forfeiture of Illegal Assets or Confiscation of Criminal Assets in the framework of a joint EU funded initiative
On Thursday, February 27 2014, the National Chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania launch simultaneously three Nationals Reports on the Forfeiture of Criminal and Illegal Assets. The publications aim to present three different models for forfeiture and management of assets and provide for recommendations on how to tackle deficiencies on national level.
The Legal researches are the corner stone for an upcoming civil monitoring on the work of confiscation authorities in the three countries. The three Chapters of TI will conduct monitoring of their National confiscation authorities based on specific indicators. The aim is to identify the level of transparency, efficiency, integrity and accountability of the national institutions, involved in the process of asset forfeiture and the management of the frozen and confiscated assets.
The project is implemented with the financial support of the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the Directorate-General Home Affairs of the European Commission
Three national chapters of Transparency International, being also EU MSs (TI–Bulgaria, TI–Italy and TI-Romania) are conducting a 24-month research and independent civil monitoring over the legal, institutional, and operational modes of the Asset Recovery Offices (AROs) and policies to outline their main strong/weak aspects in terms of competencies, capacity, performance and integrity. The aim of the project is to support the effectiveness, accountability and transparency of asset confiscation policies and practices in Europe, allowing for improved cooperation between authorities in MSs.
The legal research shall provide for objective understanding of main strong and weak areas in asset confiscation legal, institutional and policy practices in BG, RO and IT, and will become the basis for the independent civil monitoring and the exchange of know-how and good practice. The addressed shortcomings and recommendations will trigger improvement of the institutional and procedural capacities of AROs on local and EU level, esp. regarding transparency, accountability, integrity, modes of operation, human resource management, coherence with other relevant authorities, access to databases, use of expertise in asset assessments, cost effectiveness. The project findings (lessons learnt) will also be disseminated via the TI network on regional and EU level. Ultimately, this means strengthened capacities of AROs and better possibilities for cooperation between MSs and civil society representatives at regional and EU-level.
Confiscation of property acquired through crime and the forfeiture of illegal assets are instruments for active counteraction of serious crimes that are of nature to generate economic gain for their perpetrators or third persons. The application of such mechanisms requires a firm political will and a particular governmental policy to combat crime. It is grounded on the awareness of an existing high risk of growing organised crime and corruption and the perception for its negative effect on the governance and economic development of the country.
The reasons behind the adoption of legislation for forfeiture of illegal assets or confiscation of criminal assets differ from one country to another but this specific approach should be taken as a clear policy against cumulating of assets whose legal origin cannot be proven or which derive from criminal conduct. It aims at prevention and provides for dissuasive effect on future perpetrators.
The relevance of this problematic is in removing the economic gain from serious crime (including, but not limited to drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering, organised crime) in order to discourage the criminal conduct. Its importance is evidenced by the number of multilateral treaties that have been concluded and provide obligations for states to cooperate with one another on confiscation, asset sharing, legal assistance, and compensation of victims. Several United Nations conventions (including the United Nations Convention against Corruption) and multilateral treaties contain provisions with regard to forfeiture of assets.
In contrast to conviction based confiscation, the forfeiture of illegally acquired assets (civil forfeiture) is the forfeiture in favour of the state of such assets in the framework of civil proceedings. These civil proceedings do not require a final conviction for a crime committed where the crime has justified the launch of proceedings under a specific law.
Unlike the classic models of confiscation of criminal assets the non-conviction based forfeiture is a useful tool in a variety of contexts, particularly when criminal confiscation is not possible or available. The adoption of the non-conviction-based forfeiture approach should be seen as an operational instrument for a quicker reaction on the part of the state authorities as well as an effective tool for sizing and forfeiting the proceeds of crimes independently from the outcome of the criminal justice proceedings. Because a non-conviction-based forfeiture is an action against the asset itself, it can proceed regardless of death, flight, or any immunity the criminal or the corrupt official might enjoy.
The issue of asset forfeiture is subject of regulation on EU level as well. The making of a draft Directive for freezing and confiscation of proceeds from criminal activity in the European Union was accompanied by high expectations. Some even led to deliberation of the possibility for non-conviction asset forfeiture, before a final court verdict, which however did not become the general rule but rather provided for a few exceptions. The EU Directive remains with a limited scope as it only deals with confiscation of criminal (and not illegal) assets, but it could be assessed as a positive first step in the establishment of common EU standards in the field of confiscation of assets.
The legal research FORFEITURE OF ILLEGAL ASSETS: CHALLENGES AND PERSPECTIVES OF THE BULGARIAN APPROACH is focused on the model of the non-conviction based confiscation introduced in Bulgaria in 2012 with the Forfeiture in Favour of the State of Illegally Acquired Assets Act.
The Law provides for a special Commission on Illegal Asset Forfeiture whose role is to perform examination of the assets, institute proceedings for imposition of precautionary measures, and submit a motion for an injunction securing a future action for forfeiture of unlawfully acquired assets to the district civil court.
The Legal research looks at the procedures for the set-up of the newly established Commission, the rules for transparency and integrity of its members and personnel as well as the object, subject and the stags of illegal assets forfeiture.
The inventory of crimes provided for in the Law includes crimes that typically generate assets such as organized crime, drug-related crimes, money laundering, trafficking or corruption etc. as well as other crimes that allow to expand the scope of forfeiture to illegally acquired assets of a broader range of persons. The Law provides for two alternative grounds for the launch the examination: commission of a crime or of an administrative violation. It is important to note that the forfeiture of illegal assets is a complex procedure which involves: examination of the assets, made by the Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture, the freeze and forfeiture of assets – made by the civil court and the management of frozen/forfeited assets – made respectively by the Commission of Illegal Assets Forfeiture/ and a Special Council for Management of Forfeited Assets.
The actual forfeiture of illegally acquired assets does not achieve in full the objective of the law to protect the public interest and restore rule of law and justice. Forfeited assets need to be well managed and their economic functions well preserved so that they can be used effectively to public ends as well as for compensation for damage caused by the crime that generated the illegal assets. In this regard the main question once the assets have been forfeited concerns their administration and management. The management of assets is evaluated as the weakest and least developed part of the procedures in Bulgaria.
The Legal Research of the Italian system “ILLICIT ASSETS RECOVERY IN ITALY” descripts their model of confiscation of assets: a more peculiar system for the confiscation of assets; it is impossible to identify it under the traditional bi-partition among conviction based (criminal) confiscation and non-conviction based confiscation. On one side there is a general regime which lies under the criminal conviction based model; on the other side a special discipline for criminal organisations is also provided and it works through a precautionary proceeding which is separate from the criminal one and it operates regardless of the criminal conviction of the person whose assets are seized/confiscated by the State.
The two-tiered regime splits confiscation procedures on two levels:
The legal research for Romania “EXTENDED CONFISCATION PROCEDURE IN ROMANIA” presents an analysis of current confiscation procedures (extended confiscation) in Romania, being based on the applicable legislation, questionnaires regarding institutional practice and statistics answered by representatives of institutions with competence in the field, magistrates, civil society organizations, representatives of the media and businessmen.
Some of the important conclusions in Romania refer to the lack of transparency in the management and recovery of confiscated property and the lack of efficient cooperation between confiscation authorities. In addition the statistics held by the relevant institutions do not allow to make a realistic and fair evaluation of the situation regarding concluded confiscation procedures.
In light of the above, the recommendations made in the report target the development and implementation of effective instruments and mechanisms at the level of the institutions with responsibilities in the field of confiscation, the transparent and timely publication of statistics on confiscation by relevant institutions and regular consultations with relevant stakeholders on general and specific issues related to confiscation.
Full reports and Executive Summaries can be found at the RESEARCH page.
On United Nations’ International Anti-Corruption Day — December 9 2013, Transparency International – Bulgaria and the Commission for Forfeiture of Illegal Assets signed a Cooperation Agreement.
The “Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation – European Approaches” project was launched in the beginning of June 2013. The project implemented with the financial support of the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Commission envisages independent civil monitoring over the Asset Recovery Offices performance in Bulgaria, Romania and Italy.
The aim of the Cooperation Agreement signed between TI Bulgaria and the Commission for Forfeiture of Illegal Assets is to give ground for the implementation of civil control over the Commission’s work.
The Agreement was signed at an official ceremony in the presence of representatives of institutions involved in asset forfeiture procedures, ambassadors of EU Member States and media.
On December 9, 2013, United Nations’ International Anti-Corruption Day, Transparency International – Bulgaria and the Commission for Forfeiture of Illegal Assets will sign a Cooperation Agreement.
In the beginning of June 2013, the national chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania launched the “Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation – European Approaches” project. The project envisages independent civil monitoring over the Asset Recovery Offices performance in each of the three countries.
The aim of the Cooperation Agreement to be signed between TI Bulgaria and the Commission for Forfeiture of Illegal Assets is to give ground for the implementation of civil control over the Commission’s work.
The Agreement will be signed at an official ceremony in the presence of all institutions involved in asset forfeiture procedures, including the Prosecutor’s Office of Bulgaria, the Ministry of Interior, the State Agency for National Security, the National Revenue Agency, and the Customs Agency.
The ambassadors of the EU State Members, Norway, Switzerland and the United States, as well as representatives of the media are also invited to attend the ceremony.
The project is implemented with the financial support of the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Commission.
On August 28, 2013 a meeting of the international team working within the “Illegal Asset Confiscation” project was held in Sofia. The initiative is implemented by Transparency International – Bulgaria in partnership with the national chapters of Transparency International in Italy and Romania.
During the two-day forum, experts from Bulgaria, Italy and Romania discussed the issues regarding forfeiture of illegally acquired assets in the context of the projects goals and expected outcome. The project team united in the understanding that confiscation of assets acquired from criminal activity is an effective mechanism when implemented in an open and transparent way. The confiscation of illegal asset will increase citizen trust in the public institutions involved in combating organized crime and corruption.
The forum participants also discussed the methodology for the analysis of the legal framework and institutional policies of the Asset Recovery Offices in the three countries. The analysis will be carried out between September and December 2013, and will include a thorough study of the existing legislation, as well as the procedures and practices for asset confiscation in the light of the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and efficiency.
The analysis will particularly focus on issues related to management and utilization of seized assets, which are an integral part of the entire mechanism for protection of public interest. The preparation of the analysis also takes into account the opinions of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, experts and NGOs.
The assessment of the efficiency of the explored models for forfeiture of illegal assets will step upon the implemented research on country-specific mechanisms for confiscation and its findings. The analysis will serve as a foundation for preparation of methodology and indicators for civil monitoring of the activities of the Asset Recovery Offices in Bulgaria, Romania and Italy.
The study will contribute towards improvement of the cooperation between confiscation authorities, as well as the establishment of minimum standard for effective asset forfeiture in European context.