In this issue, we focus on Côte d’Ivoire!
Mr. Romain Ouattara, coordinator of the mutual evaluation currently conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in this country, talks about the evolution of the Ivorian AML/CFT criminal chain over the last few years and presents the support provided by OCWAR-M.
The institutions of the AML/CFT criminal chain in Côte d’Ivoire have evolved significantly in recent years. Could you tell us about these developments?
The latest institutional developments in the criminal chain are the outcome of the criminal policy put in place by the country’s political authorities.
Indeed, two major institutions were created in 2022. These are the Economic and Financial Criminal Pole (Pôle Pénal Économique et Financier – PPEF) and the Agency for the Management and Recovery of Criminal Assets (Agence de Gestion et de Recouvrement des Avoirs Criminels – AGRAC).
At the end of 2018, an Investigation Office of the Court of Abidjan was set up on an experimental basis as a specialised office in charge of handling cases related to ML/FT. As this experimental phase was conclusive, Decree No. 2020-124 of 29 January 2020 created, within the Abidjan Court of First Instance, the PPEF dedicated to the investigation of economic and financial offences of particular gravity or complexity.
Because the number of cases handled and sent for trial was increasing, a specialised trial chamber dedicated to proceedings investigated by the Economic and Financial Criminal Pole was created by Decree n°2021-242 of 26 May 2021.
After two years of operation and in order to improve the already visible results of the PPEF, the Law n°2022-193 of 11 March 2022 on the creation, organisation and functioning of the PPEF was adopted to turn it into an autonomous criminal court of first instance, in charge of the prosecution, investigation and judgment of economic and financial offences presenting certain criteria of gravity and complexity.
This Law also provides for the creation, within the PPEF, of a specialised judicial police unit responsible for investigating cases within its jurisdiction. This unit will be operational very soon.
As for the second institution, the Agency for the Management and Recovery of Criminal Assets (AGRAC), its mandate, organisation and functioning were set out in Decree No. 2022-349 of 1 June 2022, amended by Decree No. 2022-982 of 21 December 2022.
This major institution provides the national AML/CFT system with a body to ensure the effectiveness of the sentence with regard to its property aspects. It will further ensure the effectiveness of the efforts made by the actors in the criminal chain. Before the advent of AGRAC, the recovery and management of criminal assets was carried out by the State Judicial Agent (Agent Judiciaire de l’État – AJE) who handed over to the Director General of the new Agency on 9 September 2022. The agency is in the process of becoming operational.
Why were these developments necessary, and what improvements did they bring?
The advent of these two institutions – one dedicated to the investigation, prosecution and judgement of cases of ML/FT and other underlying offences, the other to the recovery and management of assets frozen, seized or confiscated by the PPEF – is an opportunity to strengthen the AML/CFT system. These two interdependent institutions allow, at the end of the chain, to deprive the criminal of the benefits of his crime, so that his activity is no longer profitable.
Moreover, the advent of these two institutions in the criminal justice chain has been a real boon to the country’s AML/CFT system, which is currently being evaluated by IMF experts. The draft mutual evaluation report (MER) notes, for example, that “since the creation of the PPEF, the momentum seems to be excellent, led by this specialised court which has given a new impetus to the prosecution of organised crime and money laundering. Prosecution and conviction statistics show this new momentum, and the ratio of prosecutions and convictions to investigations is very high.”
Furthermore, the draft MER states that “the judicial authorities have appropriated the confiscation provisions well and made them a priority focus of their action, issuing confiscation orders in the vast majority of ML convictions. Equivalent value confiscation orders have been issued as well as complex confiscation orders.”
On this basis and in view of the results obtained by the PPEF and the State Judicial Agent, the third draft of the MER, which will be discussed at the GIABA plenary in May 2023, proposes, at this stage of the process, moderate scores for immediate outcomes 7 (investigation and prosecution of ML) and 8 (confiscations).
Could you tell us about the support provided by OCWAR-M to the actors of the Ivorian AML/CFT criminal chain?
The OCWAR-M project has positioned itself as one of the major partners in capacity building for actors in the AML/CFT criminal chain in Côte d’Ivoire, where it has trained a pool of experts. These include:
- Blanche ABANET, President of the PPEF (formerly dean of the PPEF’s investigating judges)
- Romain OUATTARA, Magistrate, Member of the FIU
- Major Commissioner Idrissa DIARRASSOUBA, Member of the FIU
- Djénéba KONATE married name EDOUKOU, Deputy Public Prosecutor of the PPEF
- Principal Police Commissioner Dodo Philippe ATSE, Deputy Director of the Economic and Financial Brigade of the National Police
They took part in a series of trainings of trainers consisting of five pillars on the detection of the offence, investigations, seizure and recovery of criminal assets, mutual legal assistance and judgment.
This training of trainers was unique because of the range of subjects it covered and the quality of the regional and international experts who led the sessions. Another specific feature of this training is that the trained trainers have the duty to provide training on the five pillars to the actors of the national criminal justice chain.
Due to the country’s commitment to the ongoing mutual evaluation process, the training sessions for the actors of the criminal justice chain will be implemented after the adoption of the MER (May 2023), the third draft of which includes recommendations on the training of actors of the criminal chain. In other words, the OCWAR-M project and its facilitators, whom I thank again for the opportunity given to Côte d’Ivoire, were able to anticipate the country’s needs.