Recovering Africa’s swindled assets from foreign bank accounts: A daunting task or just bad faith?, By Chofor Che, 07 January 2013

In November 2012, the government of Tanzania asked the World Bank for support to help recover billions of shillings the state has lost via corruption by prominent politicians and statesmen. Tanzania is not the only African state with such a serious problem. Other Central African states like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also plagued with the same dilemma.
The leader of the official opposition in Tanzania’s National Assembly, Mr Freeman Mbowe, attested in November that the state had made very little progress in recovering funds hoarded in foreign bank accounts by prominent personalities. According to Mr Mbowe it was therefore high time the state sought for assistance from the Asset Recovery Unit of the World Bank to recover the funds.
“Tanzania has lost billions of shillings through illegal financial flows out of her borders. We have not been able to successfully recover stolen assets. Why can’t we engage global partners to help recover the assets?” asserted Mr Mbowe.
Corrupt individuals, including prominent business tycoons and some top ranking government officials in Africa, continue to secretly stash away tax payers’ money in foreign bank accounts. Following a report from Tanzania Daily News, more than 315.5bn shillings ($196.87 million), has been stashed in Swiss banks.
Following a report released by the Swiss central bank, Swiss National Bank in June, this year, Tanzania is among eleven African states whose nationals have secretly stashed away millions of dollars in the country’s banks. Other states involved in such malpractices include Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Gabon. This explains why African states continue to appear among the most corrupt countries in the World.
Mr Mbowe was bitter on why the Prime Minister of Tanzania was unable to make public the names of individuals involved in malpractices of such calibre. Mr Mbowe asserted that a number of disloyal businessmen, have siphoned shillings to tax haven states including Luxemburg, Dubai, Mauritius Grenada, Switzerland and British Virgin Island. The central government of Tanzania claims that it is still probing into the scandal and once investigations are finalised, findings would be made public and measures will be taken against corrupt officials.
It is time for central governments in Africa to rethink strategies on bringing to book corrupt officials who continue to swindle tax payers’ money and stash abroad. Money illegally stashed abroad has only made recipient states wealthy and impoverished African states in particular. The World Bank has an Asset Recovery unit, and one of the major duties of this unit is to assist states repatriate stolen funds stashed in foreign bank accounts. If the World Bank truly wants to assist African states in eradicating poverty and advancing development as it claims, then it is high time for this bank to stop playing the devil’s advocate and assist African states repatriate these funds. A lot of legal and transparency measures need to be put in place to ensure that repatriation measures are effective. It does not only suffice to rank African states as the most corrupt states in the world, especially as central governments in Africa partner with deceitful banks in the West to contribute to Africa’s dilemma. The West needs to assist Africa in repatriating ill-gotten funds stashed in foreign bank accounts.

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