The splendidly named International Corruption Hunters’ Alliance sponsored by the World Bank met for two days in Copenhagen last week. The roughly 200 participants included prosecutors and other anti-bribery professionals from over 100 countries.
An increasingly sophisticated group of law enforcement personnel was joined by a much smaller number of academics, representatives of civil society and — on my panel — the private sector. While compliance professionals, including many avid followers of the FCPA Blog, are well-represented on the conference circuit, the ICHA is unique in this space. It seeks to build connections across borders in order to staunch illicit financial flows, address tax evasion, and facilitate asset tracing.
I asked the inimitable Pascale Dubois, host of the event, what the Bank’s goal was in investing so heavily to bring the community together. She noted that “every two years, the World Bank International Corruption Hunters Alliance brings together people who dedicate their careers to fighting corruption in their countries. [They] exchange techniques, build trust, and learn from each other. This energizes the community and forges alliances, so that when there’s an opportunity to stop corruption together, [they] take it.”
We so often recognize the value of benchmarking to the corporate community, but sometimes fail to consider its importance for enforcement agencies. Prosecutors can face some of the same challenges as compliance professionals — feeling isolated in their offices with too few resources and struggling to keep up with trends. Even more so in the most challenging jurisdictions, with ambivalent official support and a smaller and more fragmented community.
Substantively, last week’s conference included a great deal of enthusiastic discussion about Unexplained Wealth Orders in the UK as a tool to curb kleptocracy. There was a comparable level of concern about cryptocurrency and its power to facilitate covert fund transfers. More generally, many speakers bemoaned the ability of criminals to move money more quickly than asset forfeiture experts can trace it.
After moderating the plenary session, Nicola Bonucci of the OECD noted that “criminals do not respect borders, but they are adept at making use of them in order to shield themselves from jurisdiction.” He added that meetings like the ICHA are “a great opportunity for informal cooperation, sharing of best practices and confronting common challenges among law enforcement officials.”
Perhaps most encouraging about the event was the energy being brought to bear on the intractable problem of corruption. While the corporate compliance community has long been accustomed to the collegial exchange of best practices, the World Bank has taken the important step of creating and fostering a forum in which prosecutors from diverse countries with different legal systems can discuss practical solutions. When an organization like the ICHA brings pressure to bear on international bad actors, it makes the work of corporate compliance professionals easier.
Alexandra Wrage is president and founder of TRACE. She is the author or editor of five books about anti-bribery compliance and the hidden costs of corruption, and the host of the financial crime podcast Bribe, Swindle or Steal. She will chair the upcoming Economic Crime Summit in Vancouver in June.