Asset Reality at the FATF-Interpol Roundtable Engagement (FIRE II)

Lo Furneaux
Digital Content & Operations Coordinator

Asset Reality was honoured to receive an invitation to moderate a panel discussion at the second FATF-INTERPOL Roundtable Engagement (FIRE) event held in Lyon last month.

Hosted by INTERPOL and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the two-day event was designed to facilitate discussions among law enforcement agencies worldwide and focused heavily on improving global asset recovery and depriving criminals of their ill-gotten gains.

More than 200 international asset recovery experts from both the public and private sectors came together to address the latest challenges and discuss potential solutions for the most recent crime trends seen by INTERPOL; including the emerging threat of cyber-enabled fraud being facilitated by human trafficking and the associated money laundering techniques identified in the FATF’s Project on the Illicit Funding of Cyber-Enabled Fraud (CEF).

Photo Credit: FATF

During his opening address, FATF President T. Raja Kumar emphasised the importance of focusing on asset recovery:

“There needs to be a major mindset and culture shift to focus on asset recovery as a national law enforcement priority. This takes time, but it is essential for countries to start now. Asset recovery is not a secondary or ancillary aspect of investigations and prosecution.  It should be a key crime prevention strategy to remove the primary incentive for financial crime – money. If done well, it will prevent and reduce further crime.”

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock added:

“Criminal groups are making billions in illicit profits every year, and their activities should be considered a national security threat. It is only through increased cooperation and aligning of efforts, such as this INTERPOL-FATF event, that we can map a way forward in closing the gaps which criminals exploit every day.” 
Photo Credit: FATF

Asset Reality co-founder & CEO, Aidan Larkin was invited to moderate a dynamic panel discussion that featured prominent experts in the field, including Jarod Koopman from IRS Criminal Investigations, Stefan Jerga from the Australian Federal Police, and Toyin Salako from the Cayman Islands Government. Together, they explored the multifaceted challenges and opportunities encountered by asset recovery professionals throughout the entire seized asset life cycle.

The conversation covered a wide range of perspectives and insights, providing attendees with a comprehensive understanding of this crucial sector.

Photo Credit: Asset Reality

In a subsequent interview, Aidan was keen to highlight the positive effects of this kind of public-private sector collaboration:

“I’m not even going to try to hide my enthusiasm or play it cool about being invited to moderate a panel on seized assets at the inspiring and informative Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - INTERPOL Roundtable Engagement (FIRE).”
“So often an after-thought, witnessing seized asset management getting discussed on one of, if not the, most important global stage for our sector, fills me with pride and an enormous sense of optimism for the future ahead. The figures are staggering - literally trillions being laundered globally.”
“The encouraging and powerful words of T Raja Kumar and Jürgen Stock only reaffirm my commitment to this important cause. We need to strip criminals of their illicit assets. It doesn’t matter the category. From virtual assets to vehicles, the asset class isn’t criminal, but if it’s being used to launder or invest proceeds of criminality it must be recovered.”
“This sort of public and private sector collaboration is exactly what the sector needs.”
“As someone who’s dedicated the last decade to championing the importance of effective asset management, I was genuinely honoured and humbled to be asked to lead the discussion on this topic. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done and the team we’ve assembled at Asset Reality to build the tools that practitioners need to ensure crime does not pay.”
Photo Credit: Asset Reality

The world leaders in tackling financial crime first came together last year in Singapore with the goal of ensuring that asset recovery became a key pillar of countries’ approach to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing. This pivotal collaboration was prompted by alarming statistics from the UNODC, which revealed that only 1% of the estimated US$2 trillion in organized crime proceeds is being seized on a global scale.

Since then, initiatives such as INTERPOL’s Global Rapid Intervention of Payments (I-GRIP), which serves as an international rapid stop-payment mechanism, have enabled countries around the world to intercept more than US$200 million in ill-gotten gains, with a huge portion of that figure coming from seizing digital assets like cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

These record-breaking results can and should encourage more law enforcement agencies to invest in the tools and training needed to unearth the billions of dollars in illicit assets waiting to be seized and reinvested in society. But while these investigations are a step in the right direction, there’s still a lot that needs to be done. 

Aidan shed more light on this during his post-event interview, saying:

“The truth is that illicitly gained, physical assets such as Rolex watches, Chanel bags, Lamborghinis and super yachts will always outnumber digital assets - and that is a massive opportunity for asset recovery.”

This sentiment was echoed by our chief strategy officer, Hugo Hoyland during the inaugural episode of the Asset Reality podcast, Seize and Desist:

“No criminal wants to be sat on a USB drive that has tens of millions of dollars worth of digital assets. They want the yacht. They want the house, they want the big holidays, they want their cash-out point.”

Defeating global organised crime requires more than just focusing on criminal cases involving cryptocurrencies, NFTs, or other digital assets. While it may seem convenient to target this emerging asset class, it's important to recognize that asset recovery performance has been subpar long before the advent of digital assets. Effectively addressing these cases demands a comprehensive approach, as there are no distinct 'crypto crimes,' only cases involving different asset classes.

Photo Credit: FATF

Singapore’s most recent anti-money laundering seizures are a prime example of this. It’s easy to look at this case and see just another billion-dollar seizure with all the usual luxury goods, including several bank accounts, millions in cash, luxury homes, gold bars, cars, homes and even designer clothes.

However, after one of Singapore's largest investigations into money laundering and forgery offences, police were able to build the case to include more than S$38 million of cryptocurrencies along with bottles of liquor, wine and multiple ornaments, bringing the total value of assets seized to more than S$2.4 billion.

Since gaining the FATF Presidency, Singapore has demonstrated that empowering law enforcement with a comprehensive approach to criminal cases can lead to significant increases in both physical and digital asset seizures.

How many other billion-dollar seizures are out there that could be put back into the hands of victims, law enforcement and wider society?

Photo Credit: Singapore Police Force

The achievements seen in crypto asset recovery have provided a clear blueprint for how government agencies can effectively track, freeze, and seize criminals' assets, regardless of their nature. 

Yet, to truly seize this opportunity, we need to make the process of asset recovery easier for law enforcement, as Aidan points out:

"As a former law enforcement asset recovery practitioner, I have seen the challenges firsthand. The fact that less than 1% of criminals' assets are being confiscated globally is not the fault of the people on the ground working the cases, but a lack of resources. As such, greater funding for asset recovery will help to take the profits out of crime and actually make crime pay for society - for a change.”
Photo Credit: FATF

The latest initiative from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and INTERPOL will go down in history as the real motive behind countries’ renewed interest in seriously fighting crime.  

Thanks to their combined focus on improving asset recovery on the global stage, we will start to see a greater number of criminal investigations across the world, more media headlines celebrating the successful seizure of illicit assets and more reinvestment back into victims and society.

These new standards will ensure that asset recovery remains a key pillar in the global approach to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing - and not an afterthought.

If you want to know more about our solution to streamline seized asset recovery & management, please contact or visit the Asset Reality website.

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