World Bank, UN join battle to claw back corrupt leaders spoils

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 17, 2007 (AFP) – The World Bank and United Nations on Monday threw their backing behind developing nations seeking to recover assets pilfered by corrupt leaders, unveiling a scheme to lend muscle to their claims.

“There should be no safe haven for those who steal from the poor,” World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said, adding the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative was a warning to corrupt leaders “that they will not escape the law.”

The World Bank estimates the global flow of illegal funds from crime, corruption and tax evasion at more than a thousand billion dollars each year, with billions squirreled away in secret bank accounts.

“The initiative will foster much needed cooperation between developed and developing countries and between the public and private sectors to ensure that looted assets are returned to their rightful owners,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

World Bank officials estimate that 25 percent of the gross domestic product of African states is lost to corruption every year, counting for some 148 billion dollars, while a further 20 to 40 billion dollars is spent on bribes to public officials in the world’s poorest countries.

“Each 100 million dollars recovered wo