The State Assets Recovery Agency will soon be taking the first batch of cases to the court after acquiring sufficient evidence. This was today confirmed by the Agency’s Deputy-Director, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer.
Speaking on the sidelines of an Anti-Corruption Seminar being hosted by the SARA, the Deputy-Director said that within another month the first batch will be taken to the courts followed by several others.
According to Retemyer, “You have to be able to convert the information you have to evidence and then advance it to court.”
He explained that it must be anticipated that persons charged with misappropriation and stealing of state assets usually advance arguments based on the procedural aspect of the acquisition. Hence the need for SARA to gather evidence in a prescribed manner to ensure solid cases. The Deputy Director also spoke of the need to be careful with the type of information divulged to the public, since this may compromise the cases.
“If I should say something in public that can be construed as though we are going after people because of political or other reasons, all these things are taken into consideration when the judge listens to the case”, Retemyer pointed out.
A major challenge facing the agency is the lack of digitized records. This is a main contributor to the length of time it takes to advance these cases, the SARA official further explained.
Prioritising the cases is another hurdle faced, since external assistance costs the State.
“Although we are getting help, you have to pay for it and we do not have unlimited resources so you have to judge between if this thing will bring you back let’s say $100M and you have to spend $10M. Are you prepared to spend it?” he asked.
The Deputy-Director confirmed too that the agency has unearthed the presence of stolen state assets abroad. However, he could not divulge any further information due to the sensitive nature of the case.
In terms of statistics, SARA is working with other agencies to determine how many financial crimes were actually reduced. It is also working along with the United Nations country representative to craft an Anti-Corruption Policy based on the international body’s list of recommendations.
By Stacy Carmichael