The fourth training on ‘Financial Investigation and Asset Recovery’ began on November 13 in Thimphu to enhance capacity of enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption.

Senior Asset Recovery Specialist at the International Centre for Asset Recovery, Thierry Ravalomanda, said when a criminal receives the proceeds of the crime, questions such as how he would spend it, use it or invest come.

He said that institutions such as Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), police, banks, and Royal Audit Authority (RAA) are in place to detect suspicious transactions and flow of money.

Head of training with International Centre for Asset Recovery, which is a part of the Basel Institute in Governance, Switzerland, Phyllis Atkinson, said that money laundering is taking the proceeds of a crime and trying to conceal where that money comes from. “The criminal wants to disconnect the dirty money got from the crime committed, and the way that he/she ultimately enjoys it (process of hiding dirty money).”

She said that traditionally what investigators do is go after criminal with the intention to put him/her in jail.  However, the criminal’s aim is to enjoy the proceeds of the illegal activity after coming out of jail.  “You want to prevent that from happening so, instead of just wanting to convict the individual, you also want to go after those proceeds.”

Thierry Ravalomanda said that money laundering is one of the most misunderstood legal concepts today and that it is the process of giving a legitimate appearance to illegally acquired proceeds. “Money laundering does have a meaning however, when we talk of money laundering particularly from the law enforcement perspective, the most important element that we need to see is how our law or legislation defines it.”

Penal Code of Bhutan and ACC Act 2011 criminalises money laundering under its sections such as section 277 of the Penal code, section 70, 71, 72, and 73 of the ACC Act 2011.

He said that money laundering impacts the security of a country as it facilitates and fuels crime, corruption and terrorism, ruins the reputation of a country and financial institutions, erodes collective ethical standards of a country, and brings in economic distortion and financial instability.

Governor of Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan (RMA), Dasho Penjore, said that although Bhutan is ranked 27th cleanest and ranks sixth in the Asia Pacific region as per Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (TI-CPI), Bhutan should not be complacent as corruption is prevalent, no matter how low.

He said that the recovery of illicit assets and the proceeds of crime is already becoming a common phenomenon and is drawing criticism for delayed justice and recovery of the assets involved. “The detection, seizure and recovery of the proceeds of corruption must become an effective tool to combat corruption.”

ACC Commissioner Karma Damcho Nidup said that the training is being conducted upon recommendations and needs of law enforcement agencies and the positive feedback from the participants who attended the past trainings. “This training is geared towards creating a greater understanding of corruption, money laundering, mutual legal assistance, asset tracing and recovery, financial investigative techniques, financial and electronic evidence & challenges in investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating corruption in Bhutan.”

As economies are adapting to aggressive technological advancement and development, she said it has become imperative that law enforcement agencies are equipped with advanced knowledge and skills to respond to the emerging complex financial crimes.

Phyllis Atkinson said the training contains practical exercises where the participants follow leads as if in a real investigation. “They are going to study bank accounts, excel tools, corporation documents of the companies to find where the money is hidden. You don’t learn just by listening, you need to learn by doing, they will form investigation task forces to follow the trail of the money.”

She added that to find the evidences, correct procedures must be followed and do what is required in terms of Bhutanese law.  “The evidence is out there but you have to follow the correct leads, ask the correct questions before you can access that information. It is important that we are all aware of some level of investigation.”

Some 35 participants from 17 agencies from the Judiciary, RAA, Royal Bhutan Police, RMA, Office of Attorney General, Bhutan National Legal Institute, Department of  Revenue and Customs, Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency, eight Financial Institutions and ACC are attending the training.

The training aims to enhance capacity of enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute complex (including international) corruption and money laundering cases, and recover stolen assets with better understanding of costs and risks of corruption. The training is also expected to foster closer understanding and coordination among the relevant law enforcement agencies and also the financial institutions.

Three rounds of the same trainings were conducted in 2014 and 2015 for 79 participants.

The five-day training ends on November 17.

Karma Cheki