|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UN OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME
The United Nations Convention against Corruption entered into force today after Ecuador became the thirtieth country to ratify it, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told correspondents at a Headquarters briefing today.
Since 30 ratifications was the minimum needed to put the Convention into effect, today marked the end of negotiations –- which began in Vienna in 2001 -- and the beginning of implementation, Mr. Costa said. “The major cost that corruption has imposed on citizens, taxpayers and individuals throughout the world will now be confronted by the robust articles of this Convention.”
Asked how the Convention would be implemented, Mr. Costa said it was a legal instrument that could be used to screen officials, obtain their financial disclosures, check their wealth with declared income, and criminalize abuses of office. The Convention also ruled out banking secrecy, and previously hidden assets could now be more easily found and returned to their countries of origin.
Adding that some countries were more prepared to turn the Convention into a reality than others, he said his office was assisting others to counter corrupt forces through capacity-building and technical assistance.
On whether the Convention applied to Heads of State and Government, Mr. Costa said that no one was exempt by definition, although political will to apply the instrument would depend on countries themselves. The Convention created an international framework – a level playing field for countries to examine one another -- to trigger the momentum needed in pursuing cases of corruption.
In response to a question regarding the mafia and drug trafficking, he said that by putting aside banking secrecy laws, the Convention could also be used to fight organized crime and money-laundering, which was linked with such criminal behaviour as trafficking of drugs or human beings.
Asked by another correspondent how the Convention supplemented the Financial Action Task Force and other multilateral oversight bodies, Mr. Costa said the Task Force had been a main forum for regulations in the financial and banking sectors to control or prevent money-laundering. The Convention went a step further in thwarting criminals who, in an attempt to escape the Task Force, now laundered money through such means as casinos, real estate speculation or cash transactions.
As for how the Convention could assist in repatriating assets to developing countries, he repeated that nations could no longer hide behind banking secrecy, which would help in finding and restoring stolen assets. The bad news was that such assets were not always waiting neatly in banks, but had often been splintered or wasted on planes, ships, real estate, hotels or villas, and repatriating them could be extremely costly and painful.
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