The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) of the Republic of the Philippines and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) of the Swiss Confederation organized the International Experts’ Workshop on Stolen Assets and Hidden Wealth: Theft, Recovery and Restitution (the Workshop) at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Manila, Philippines on 19-21 November 2014. This workshop was arranged under the auspices of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and was attended by approximately 140 individuals – senior government officials from asset recovery agencies and financial intelligence units of twenty (20) ASEM member-states and a sizeable Philippine contingent.

Despite positive strides made possible by the acceptance of transparency and accountability as hallmarks of good governance, the theft of public assets continues to be a serious problem.

According to the World Bank’s own estimates, corrupt money associated with bribes received by public officials from developing and transition countries is estimated at US$20 billion to US$40 billion per year – a figure equivalent to 20 to 40 percent of official development assistance. Over the past two decades, international awareness of the challenges in the recovery of such assets has been increasing. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and several international initiatives on asset recovery, such as the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative, evince the importance that the international community is attaching to this issue.

This Workshop was uniquely fitting as a collaborative project between the Philippine and Swiss governments, given that the Marcos case marked the beginning of the global asset recovery agenda and has set new standards for future restitution and potential use of illegally acquired funds. Indeed, the corruption of politically-exposed persons (PEPs) is still a major concern the world over; hence countries must continue to collaborate constructively and to commit the political will necessary for asset recovery and effective deterrence of corruption.

While the Workshop took off from the Philippine-Switzerland history on asset recovery – it went far beyond a mere revisiting of the shared experience. The 2.5-day program was broken down into 6 plenary sessions and 4 working group sessions, more particularly:

SESSION 1: “Upholding Accountability as a Democratic Imperative: Responding to Corruption with Effective Sanctions and Remedies”

  • MR. TONY KWOK MAN-WAI, International Anti-Corruption Specialist

SESSION 2: “Mapping Actual Asset Recovery Instances: An Environmental Scan”

  • MR. EMILE VAN DER DOES DE WILLEBOIS, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank/Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative

SESSION 3:“Examining the Legal Framework for Asset Recovery: Bridging the Divide Between Concept and Experience”

  • HON. GERARD A. MOSQUERA, Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, Office of the Ombudsman (Philippines)
  • H.E. VALENTIN ZELLWEGER, Ambassador, Director-General and Legal Advisor, Directorate of International Law DIL, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA (Switzerland)

SESSION 4: “Making Effective Use of Anti-Money Laundering Architecture: Optimizing Mechanisms for Theft Detection and Successful Recovery”

  • HON. JULIA C. BACAY-ABAD, Executive Director, Anti-Money Laundering Council (Philippines)

SESSION 5: “Developing Responsive Anti-Corruption Strategies in Partnership with Civil Society: Exploring the Role of the Citizens and Stakeholders in Detection, Tracing and Recovery”

  • PAK ERRY HARJAPAMENKAS, Chairman, Independent Team of National Bureaucracy Reform (Indonesia)
  • MS. GRETTA FENNER, Managing Director, Basel Institute for Governance

SESSION 6: “Strengthening International Cooperation in a Changing World: Keeping the Rapid Evolution of Illicit Schemes in Check with Open Lines of Communication and Constant Collaboration”

  • MR. CHUCK SURYOSUMPENO, Head, Asset Recovery Centre, Attorney General’s Office (Indonesia), President, Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Asia and Pacific Region (ARIN-AP) 2014
  • MR. AFRICA APOLLO, Criminal Intelligence Officer, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes Sub-Directorate, INTERPOL


1.Utilization of recovered funds

  • MR. JAN PERRY EUGENIO, Office of Representative Arlene Bag-ao, District of Dinagat Islands, House of Representatives (Philippines)
  • MS. GRETTA FENNER, Managing Director, Basel Institute for Governance

2.Mechanisms for remembrance

  • MR. PETER VAN DER AUWERAERT, Head, Land, Property & Reparations Division, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • MS. JULIE BERNATH, Program Officer, Dealing with the Past, Swiss Peace Foundation

3.Asset management

  • MR. JASON WOJDYLO, Chief Inspector, U.S. Marshals Service

4.Asset Recovery in the Digital Age: Maximizing the uses of technology and social media

  • MR. HARI MULUKUTLA, Anti-corruption, Asset Recovery & IT Advisor, Stream House AG

All told, the Workshop achieved the objectives initially targeted by the organizers. It provided a platform for bilateral exchanges and establishing personal contacts between authorities involved in Asset Recovery and Financial Intelligence proceedings. As is evident from the above-cited topics, the plenary sessions covered discussions on major issues such as the effective prevention of corruption, good governance, the use of legal instruments and regulatory compliance, etc. The workshop framework also allowed for more intimate sessions on special topics of interest to different segments of the target audience. One of the recommendations that came out of the plenary discussion was to explore ways and resources by which to maintain this kind of interface (between asset recovery offices, financial intelligence units, and other relevant law enforcement agencies) to consider and deliberate on the myriad issues and developments relating to asset recovery and restitution.