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Corruption, Cohesion and New Thinking: A Doctrinal Imperative for Sovereign Wealth Recovery Capabilities

News, 20 December 2012
Sovereign Wealth
Sovereign Wealth Recovery in failing or corrupt states should be incorporated in planning by political elites and force commanders ahead of any future military or other intervention to expedite a return to stability, according to a new research from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Sovereign Wealth Recovery in failing or corrupt states should be incorporated in planning by political elites and force commanders ahead of any future military or other intervention to expedite a return to stability, according to a new research from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Corruption, Cohesion and New Thinking: A Doctrinal Imperative for Sovereign Wealth Recovery Capabilities, written by John Louth and Lauren Twort, explores the hypothesis that endemic state-level corruption and the failure to recover purloined sovereign wealth to fragile or recovering states represents a national security issue to countries such as the United Kingdom.

The paper highlights that UK defence and national security doctrine does not address the subject of sovereign wealth recovery, despite recent UK military intervention in states where 'significant sovereign assets have been stolen by corrupt leaders'.

'Within the United Kingdom', the paper argues, 'the core competencies associated with sovereign wealth recovery reside in the private sector. These include legal, forensic accounting, investigative and project management skills and knowledge.'

'Perhaps as a consequence, there is a profound lack of awareness amongst political actors and officials of both the components and complexities of sovereign wealth recovery programmes, despite a general awareness of the risks and hazards of international crime and state-level corruption.'

'In Iraq and Afghanistan, the British government and forces shared a basic objective with their adversaries: the profound need to influence the populace effectively. However, the UK needed to secure the will of the people in order to achieve international community objectives of stability, border integrity and the rule of law. Recovering purloined sovereign wealth to countries such as these two meets this operational test and, as a consequence, should form part of today's doctrinal tool kit. By investing in development through the recovery of sovereign wealth, the burden of investment from other countries (such as the UK) can be alleviated while reducing the risk of a recurrence in conflict.'

'Monies returned to fragile states can be used for infrastructure projects, state development and broader recovery programmes, thereby financing or part-financing the development of statehood and the successful withdrawal of any engaged forces. There is also an element of justice that can be visible to the population within the country and the international community through the recovery of wealth during the transition to a post-conflict environment.'

'It seems clear, therefore, that the potential for sovereign wealth recovery should be considered at the military-planning stage of any intervention (where such action is required). An immediate challenge is that neither the armed forces nor the civil servants of the Foreign Office or the Department for International Development (DfID) are necessarily possessed of the skills to credibly review such an option. An argument can be made for securing such competencies through the use of standing, call-off contracts with private-sector specialists who could, perhaps, even deploy as a supplementary capability to the main effort. Such thinking requires a shift in doctrinal thinking.'

'[The paper recommends] A Sovereign Wealth Recovery Charter is developed in the United Kingdom as part of UK national security and defence doctrine. This should address planning imperatives on the part of political elites and force commanders prior to military or other interventions in failing states. It should deal with the selection and maintenance of core enabling competencies such as securing evidence and data-leads, broader forensic accounting, knowledge of the international legal system, liaison across multiple jurisdictions and, potentially, the deployment of specialist investigators with the first tranche of deployed personnel, either military or developmental.'

The cross-border flows of proceeds from corruption on the part of governmental and corporate elites and organised, systemic international crime amount to in excess of $1.6 trillion a year. Specifically within developing countries and those in transition from instability and conflict, close to $40 billion per annum is misappropriated by corrupt officials and politicians, preventing critical national investments from being undertaken within some of the poorest and most compromised regions.

To read the latest research in full please view: www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/Corruption_Cohesion_and_New_Thinking.pdf

  • 1. For enquiries, please contact Daniel Sherman +44(0) 20 7747 2617 / +44(0)7917 373 069 / daniels@rusi.org
  • 2. The Occasional Paper Corruption, Cohesion and New Thinking: A Doctrinal Imperative for Sovereign Wealth Recovery Capabilities can be viewed at www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/Corruption_Cohesion_and_New_Thinking.pdf
  • 3. Dr John Louth is a senior research fellow and director of Defence, Industries and Society at RUSI. His research interests are the roles and purposes of industry, its effects on the military component, and the ways in which businesses contribute to modes of power projection and security.
  • 4. Lauren Twort is a researcher with the Defence, Industries and Society programme at RUSI. She is studying for a PhD at the University of Roehampton Business School, where her research interests include fragile states, post-conflict recovery, and public and private interventions.
  • 5. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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