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Monuments Men

December 07
17:12 2019

Monuments Men

By: Neri O. Briceño

‘International asset recovery is any effort by governments to repatriate the proceeds of corruption hidden in foreign jurisdictions. Such assets may include monies in bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, arts and artifacts and precious metals. As defined under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, asset recovery refers to recovering the proceeds of corruption.’ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 2019.

During World War II it became very obvious early to the Allies that one of the primary reasons for German aggression and its invasion of Europe, was to plunder the continent. One of the first things that the Wehrmacht did when it conquered a country was to take possession of the banks and museums where they plundered cash, gold and fine art. They then did the same to the most affluent segment of the population and later to everyday people. Finally, citizens were required to maintain the cost of the Wehrmacht, which was the same army that was occupying them.

German officers often commandeered lavish mansions, residences and even hotels where they set up operational headquarters and private residences to live. The occupied populations lived not only under repressive occupation but also in a financial situation that was impossible for them to get out of because they were basically financing their own occupation. Fast forward to August 1990 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was for the same reason, to finance a corrupt and dictatorial regime. Throughout World War II, the Allies recognized that once occupied countries were eventually freed it would be difficult if not next to impossible for them to achieve financial stability and security if some if not all of the plundered assets were not recovered. The countries would decline into fail states which would further destabilize nations that were just emerging from the war. The Allies therefore set up a special unit under their Office of Strategic Services command called The Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section whose sole purpose was the recovery of national assets.

This unit would later become the blueprint for the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. In 2007, the UN estimated that as much as $1.6 trillion had been stolen not only through wars, dictators and oppressive regimes, but also by democratically elected governments, especially those in Third World and developed countries. Belize was and still is a contributor to this notorious list. With almost 95% of its GDP tied up in loan repayment for loans that in some cases were totally pilfered, Belize is desperately in need of an asset recovery program or champion. There is no conceivable way that the people of Belize will be able to pull themselves out of the current financial fiasco if some of the assets that were corruptly acquired are not regained. This includes cash, company shares, real estate, residences, vehicles and luxury goods, among other things. There is no way that the banks have not been complicit in this and that is one of the reasons why they too need to be audited as a part of the recovery program.

Naturally there will be the naysayers who will say that this cannot be done, but with proper investigation, forensics and paper trail, a huge number of Belizean assets can be not only found but also recovered. While the ability to do this is not in doubt, the political will is, because both mass parties have been involved in wholesale corruption since 1981 and it will be extremely hard for any leader to undertake this against their own party. It spells political suicide and in an atmosphere that has always been party over country, this could very well be a dream, unless a third party takes power. If this situation is left unchecked, our grandchildren will continue to pay for those who have robbed this nation. This is national self-suicide and is something that must start to be placed at the forefront of the national conversation. It will be impossible for us to dig ourselves out of this if our assets continue to remain in private hands.

It’s all about the people!!!!

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