In November 2014, the World Bank's Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative published Public Wrongs, Private Actions: Civil Lawsuits to Recover Stolen Assets. It is available here. The book provides a step-by-step guide to States embarking on an asset recovery programme. It aims "to explore the standing of States and Government entities as victims and the possible recourse to private actions to redress public wrongs" and "to promote knowledge and understanding as well as to increase the use of civil remedies and private lawsuits to recover stolen assets in the context of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) offences".

Step-by-Step Guide

The authors provide very practical advice for States contemplating a claim. They explain who can sue and be sued and how to choose where to bring claims, along with the factors to consider when appointing, and funding, lawyers. Consideration is given to civil mechanisms to obtain information and evidence. The legal analysis provides a helpful explanation of the merits of bringing personal or proprietary claims along with the complex issues of quantifying the claim. The authors also address enforcement and the use of insolvency mechanisms to recover corrupt assets.

Case studies

The book contains case-studies of successful cases and practice from across the world. These included a number of cases in which we were involved, including the civil asset recovery cases brought in England by the Nigerian Government against Mr Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha and Joshua Dariye. It also considered one of the cases from the programme of civil recovery cases we have run in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a UK Overseas Territory, in which the Government successfully brought a claim to rescind leases procured by an alleged bribe.

Conclusion

As the authors of Public Wrongs, Private Actions note, and as we found in our experience acting for governments across the world, in the right circumstances civil proceedings can provide an effective route to recover corrupt assets or damages for corruption. They may be deployed, for example, when criminal mechanisms are unavailable or unworkable, or where the quality of the evidence supports a civil claim on the "balance of probabilities" but falls short of the high criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" (or equivalent tests), or where contracts need to be terminated and claims made for damages. A longer overview of the factors often relevant to choosing recovery routes appears in our Guidance Note.