The Gambia will host the 10th Annual General Meeting of the Assets Recovery Inter-Agency Network of West Africa (ARINWA) from 28th – 30th November 2023.
ARINWA is an ECOWAS inter-ministerial initiative aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of its members in their efforts to deprive criminals of their illicit profits. As an informal network, it facilitates information exchange on asset recovery, confiscation and money laundering in West Africa.
The Gambia is a founding member of ARINWA, and has since been an active participant in all its activities through the three National Focal Persons representing the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Finance. This representation reflects the multi-sector approach to counter the acquisition and retention of criminal wealth.
Members of the ARINWA Secretariat and Technical partners have met with Honourable Minister of Interior, Seyaka Sonko to discuss the level of preparedness ahead of the arrival of the more than 60 delegates from across West Africa.
During the meeting, Minister Sonko told the delegation that His Excellency President Adama Barrow has directed for the law enforcement agencies to pursue and sign bilateral and multilateral agreements with their counterparts around the world to facilitate international cooperation in criminal investigation.
The Interior Minister also spoke of the impact that organised crime has on the economies of the African continent.
“It is estimated that Africa loses about US$89 billion, 3.7 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), annually in illicit financial flows, including tax evasion and drug trafficking,” said Hon. Sonko.
He went on: “Depriving criminals of their ill-gotten wealth has proven to be one of the most effective ways of disempowering them by weakening their financial and general resource based for continued commission of crime. The hosting of this meeting demonstrates Gambia Government’s commitment at the highest political level to the consolidation of the criminal asset recovery regime of the ECOWAS region. My Ministry will continue to support the activities and programmes of the Network”.
He expressed The Gambia Government’s commitment to the fight against Transnational Organised Crime with a view to mitigating its impact on the Gambian society in particular and the global community generally.
As evidence of the country’s political will towards global efforts against organised crime, the Minister mentioned the domestication and implementation of relevant UN conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the three drug Conventions, as well as the various ECOWAS instruments including the Protocol on Mutual legal Assistance in Criminal matters.
The Director of Intelligence and International Cooperation at Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Lamin. J Gassama, explained that three national focal points represent each member state are drawn from the ministries are in charge of Justice, Interior and Finance.
The decision to host the AGM in The Gambia was reached at the last Annual General Meeting held in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire from 5th – 9th December 2022. It was also in consonance with the resolution of the 5th General Assembly in 2018, which directed for the hosting of the Plenary by Network member states to go in alphabetical sequence.
Hon. Sonko, on behalf of the Government of The Gambia, extended his heartfelt appreciation to the technical and financial partners of The Gambia, particularly, the UNODC and GIZ, for their support towards the hosting of the AGM in Banjul.