Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative of World Bank Group and UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Project completed

Asset recovery is an important priority on the global agenda. Demand for expertise on asset recovery remains high around the world. Asset recovery is a priority for SDC, the Message 2014-2017 and Switzerland as a financial center with its pioneering role in general. This contribution will support the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). StAR is a partnership between the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that supports international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Legal and judicial development
Anti-corruption organisations
16.12.2015 - 30.06.2022
CHF  1’900’000

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) are discussed in all important international fora as they represent a challenge for development policy. The Global Financial Integrity research organisation estimates that roughly USD 1 trillion flows illegally out of developing and emerging economies every year due to crime, corruption, and tax evasion – more than these countries receive in foreign direct investment and foreign aid combined.

The recovery and return of stolen assets to their countries of origin is a key component to combatting corruption and illicit financial flows. Asset recovery includes all processes involved in the tracing, freezing, confiscating and returning of funds obtained through illegal activities. Asset recovery has recently also be seen as an important component when discussing the financing and implementation of the 2030 Agenda.


StAR’s long-term objective is to facilitate the systematic and timely return of stolen assets.

StAR intervenes by i) supporting countries in retrieving their stolen assets (Country Engagement) and ii) contributing to international standard setting on asset recovery and asset return (Policy Influence). Furthermore StAR also intervenes with work streams such as knowledge development, partnerships and communication to effectively disseminate StAR’s experience and results which will also be of direct use for SDC.

Target groups

StAR is a demand-oriented initiative: Specific requests for country assistance must come from governments.

Furthermore, StAR actively builds on networks of practitioners, both governmental and non-governmental.

Medium-term outcomes

Corrupt assets are recovered

International standards are effectively implemented

Practitioners use regularly innovative means to recover proceeds of corruption

Countries cooperate effectively in asset recovery cases

High level political commitment to asset recovery is demonstrated and remains high


Expected results:  

  • Case-related technical assistance delivered to at least 20 countries
  • Contribution delivered to the “Illicit Financial Flows” agenda, including link with the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals
  • Substantive contribution to UNCAC 2nd cycle reviews on asset recovery provided
  • Support provided / lessons learnt on the management of returned assets at global and country levels.
  • Partnerships formalized with CSOs (Transparency International, Global Witness, etc.) on global advocacy
  • Traffic to the StAR website, Twitter account, and StAR Blog increased

Results from previous phases:  

  • StAR has become the leading center of competence on asset recovery globally, both with regard to legal assistance and to advocate for global standards on asset recovery. Advantages include legitimacy and leverage of two respected institutions (UNODC and the WBG), broad field presence, legal framework of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), policy framework and subject expertise.
  • During 2011-2013 USD 86.8 million were returned to their countries of origin due to StAR’s assistance. In addition, StAR had assisted in 37 asset recovery cases and trained more than 1’500 persons in asset recovery procedures.
  • An internal review recommended that StAR needed to further prioritise its interventions. In response to this, a theory of change process has been initiated which resulted in a clear strategic outline and a solid results framework.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
International Financial Institution (IFI)
  • World Bank - International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Coordination with other projects and actors

StAR has synergies with the Directorate of Political Affairs (i.e. UN Convention Against Corruption), State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (i.e. Anti-Money Laundering TA programs).

StAR complements the work of other parts of the Swiss Administration such as the Swiss Directorate of International Law, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General with regard to asset recovery cases or policy work.

StAR collaborates closely and complements the International Center for Asset Recovery (ICAR): ICAR is an international non-governmental organisation that also enables developing countries in recovering stolen assets. It is also supported by SDC.

International level: StAR works closely with the OECD, G7, G20, Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR), Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Interpol.

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    1’900’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    1’900’000 Total project since first phase Budget inclusive project partner CHF   5’500’000
Project phases Phase 2 15.10.2021 - 30.06.2023   (Current phase)

Phase 1 16.12.2015 - 30.06.2022   (Completed)