Staling public money hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, discouraging foreign aid and investment, fundamentally distorts public policy and leads to the misallocation of resources. What makes things worse is that the offence is usually committed by political parties. Political parties are often seen as actors who abuse their powerful position to extort bribes, to supply members and followers with lucrative positions in the public sector, or to channel public resources into the hands of party leaders or supporters. In this regard, the 2016 Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson once made a statement, “We have been conditioned to think that only politicians can solve our problems. But at some point, maybe we will wake up and recognize that it was politicians who created our problems.”
Party corruption is especially problematic in developing and transitional countries where political and economic institutions are not yet fixed. This is highly prevalent in most fragile states including Ethiopia. The real problems of corruption in developing countries like ours are highlighted by the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon in his 2009 speech for the international anti-Corruption day as:
“When public money is stolen for private gain, it means fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities. When foreign aid is diverted into private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects come to a halt. Corruption enables fake or substandard medicines to be dumped on the market, and hazardous waste to be dumped in landfill sites and in oceans. The vulnerable suffer first and worst.”
In Ethiopia, corruption is perceived to have significant adverse effects and that public sector red tape is the biggest hurdle in the way of improved government-citizen relationships. Currently, what makes things worse is that beyond the corrupted officials deposited their stolen asset in foreign country like Singapore and Dubai bank, the government allows corrupt officials to stay in power.
It is a euphemistic way of saying to corrupted individuals as, “Hi folks, you are in safe heaven now as long as we are in power and as long as you support our government policies no matter what.” The result of all this makes Ethiopia among the fragile state and aid dependent, in which the poor and the vulnerable suffer first and worst. To overcome the aforementioned problems, a strong legislative and regulatory framework with multiple legal tools to detect criminal activity and illicit financial flows, rapidly freeze assets, and conduct effective investigations and court processes is necessary. Off course, some Ethiopian officials starting to make a statement in various spots that Ethiopia had been doing its best and committed to the implementation of international agreements, stolen asset recovery. Accordingly, in this paper the author tries to analyze the international legal instruments on stolen asset recovery, showing the barriers of stolen asset recovery and identifying the legal lacunas witnessed under the Ethiopian legal frameworks regulating stolen asset recovery.