Law No. 214 of 08/04/2021 relating to the recovery of assets resulting from corruption crimes

The Law No. 214 of 08/04/2021 (here below), published in the Official Gazette No 15 dated 15/04/2021, concerns operations to recover assets resulting from corruption crimes (Ill-gotten assets), regardless of the nature of the asset, whether located on Lebanese territory or abroad, and whether they are still in the property of the perpetrator or transmitted to a third party. This law is applied in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) to which Lebanon has adhered by virtue of the Law No 33/2008, as well as the Law No 44/2015 for Fighting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing; in addition to the recent laws No. 189 dated 16/10/2020 relating to the declaration of assets and other interests and the repression of illicit enrichment and No. 175 of 08/05/2020 in connection with the Anti-Corruption in the public sector and the creation of a National Commission to combat corruption.

The function of the Fund Recovery Department of the National Commission to combat corruption is to coordinate with all relevant bodies, as well as with the Special Investigation Committee (SIC) regarding the related prosecutions. In addition, it organizes strategies to recover said funds. It pursues the recovery operations with the competent administrative and judicial bodies. It specifies the obstacles facing this recovery. If necessary, it can rely on any Lebanese or foreign expert, natural person or legal entity. The deliberations are secret and anyone who attends is bound by professional secrecy. The Department has the right to ask the administration for any information which it finds necessary. Every three months, a public hearing is held with the information providers. This department presents a detailed report each year, including its operations.

However, it should be underlined that this Law has provided three achievements. The first one is the creation of a National Fund to which the returned ill-gotten assets will be diverted rather than to the Public Treasury where it won’t be possible to assign them to a specific use in compliance with the golden rules of the Budget (unity, universality and non-allocation of resources); taking into consideration that the current worldwide trend is not to return ill-gotten assets and funds unless they are used to compensate victims of corruption or for sustainable development goals. The National Fund will be entrusted with the management and investment of funds being recovered or already recovered and has legal personality, as well as financial and administrative independence. Following the fund recovery stage, by virtue of specific mechanisms developed for this purpose, funds will be used to cover the expenses of the Department recovery of funds as well as of the National Commission to combat corruption and to compensate and protect whistleblowers or as donations to state projects aiming to fight poverty and achieving sustainable development. The Fund is vested with all the powers of signing contracts and taking the necessary measures to carry out the mission entrusted to it. It can also receive any donation from internal or foreign parties which constitutes other achievements since it may allow a quick entering into force of the law by finding quick and appropriate financing to trace and recover illegal financial flows, assists and funds. The Fund presents its annual report to the parliament. The third achievement pertains to the fact that the principle of Settlement and Plea Agreement whereby corrupted officials would voluntarily repatriate and return a substantial portion of the funds and would resign, in exchange in exchange for a reduced sanction.

Finally, the Ministry of Justice implements regulations allowing the reception and execution of requests for international legal assistance as quickly as possible, on the widest possible scale.

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