Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Getting Back the Bad Guy's Loot

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Getting Back the Bad Guy's Loot

Article excerpt

Ousted dictators should not be allowed to get away with all their ill-gotten gains.

One year ago, the eyes of the world focused on Tunisia as its ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country, allegedly with millions of dollars in gold and assets on his airplane. The government of Tunisia is now working with the international community to recover Ben Ali's ill-gotten gains.

The process will be slow, complicated, and multijurisdictional, but it will lay down a marker for future dictators.

As Robert Zoellick said soon after he became president of the World Bank in 2007, "There should be no safe haven for those who steal from the poor." That was when he launched the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) at the United Nations General Assembly. Designed as a joint initiative of the World Bank and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, StAR assists developing countries seeking to recover assets from ousted dictators and in other major corruption cases.

Time will tell whether Ben Ali faces the law for his alleged crimes. But what is notable is that a year after Ben Ali fled his country, the law is already being used to recover the alleged ill- gotten gains traced to him and his associates. This is no small feat.

When other past dictators, such as Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier of Haiti, fled their countries, they often retired in comfort, living off their plundered assets in French villas and estates. This time, the international community is working to ensure that such outrages are stories of the past.

The new Tunisian government and its international collaborators started the recovery operations by recovering jets linked to the Ben Ali clan. …

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