Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice, Thursday tabled the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act in Parliament aimed at freezing assets that former repressive foreign leaders may hold in Canada. Today I tabled the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act in Parliament to give the Government of Canada new and more robust tools in our fight against corruption and the misappropriation of state funds by repressive foreign leaders, said Minister Cannon. This legislation will allow Canada to act upon the request of a foreign state to freeze the assets that their former leaders and members of their entourage, including family members, senior officials and associates, may have placed in Canadian financial institutions. It will also give Canada the authority to seize any property such individuals may own in this country. Recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa have shown the world how important it is to have legislation in place to allow for a quick response to ensure that foreign dictators cannot hide their ill-gotten wealth in our country, added Minister Cannon. Corruption is rife in Africa because there are banking institutions in Europe especially Switzerland, France, Jersey Island, Britain, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Austria, US and many others who accept money from African leaders without questioning the source of the money. According to the UN around $148 billion is stolen from the continent by the political leaders, the business elite and civil servants every year with collusion and connivance of banking industries in Europe and North America. These are the banks whose shady dealings with the political and business elite in Africa continue to impoverish African countries but which for profits sake the media refuse to tell the world about. On February 2009, a French court had Omar Bongo's 9 bank accounts containing several millions of Euros frozen. In confirming the court's decision lawyer Jean-Philippe Le Bail said: "This concerns Crédit Lyonnais, in which the president of Gabon has two current accounts, two savings accounts and a share account, and BNP, in which he has two checking accounts, a savings account and a share account". Analysts say the banks know these corrupt leaders have stolen the money yet they pretend not to know until there is a scandal before they begin to act as if they are responsible institutions. Most of the banks have also been implicated for receiving billions of dollars of looted funds from the late Mobutu of Zaire; Lansana Conte of Guinea; Eyadema of Togo; and a number of dictators and tyrants such as Omar Bongo of Gabon; Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea; Dos Santos of Angola; Denis Sassou- Nguesso of Congo; Paul Biya of Cameroon; Arap Moi of Kenya; Jerry Rawlings of Ghana; Ibrahim Babadjinda of Nigeria and a number of sitting and ex-presidents in Africa yet western media are silent about where the funds are being kept. According to a 110 page report prepared by international risk consultancy firm Kroll, Arap Moi and his family have banked £1 billion in 28 countries including Britain. Apart from the banking sector, the property sector in Europe, America and Australia have also colluded and connived with the political and business elite in Africa to impoverish the people. It has been revealed that several African leaders have bought properties in Europe and America using the monies stolen from their poor countries. It is on record that Mobutu of DRC (Zaire) bought several villas in France, Switzerland, Belgium and many European Countries. The move by Canada follows after a similar move by the US. Addressing the AU Summit in Kampala in July 2010, Eric Holder, the US Attorney General reiterated that combating corruption generally and in the United States was his government's top priority. It is in that vein that he announced that the US Department of Justice is launching a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended - and proper - use: for the people of our nations.' He informed the gathering of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union that his office was assembling a team of prosecutors who will focus exclusively on this work and build efforts already underway to deter corruption, hold offenders accountable, and protect public resources.' Numerous studies have attempted to estimate the sums of money laundered worldwide. However, because money laundering is not restricted to assets corruptly acquired by state leaders, it is not always possible to have a complete estimate of sums of money laundered from Africa. According to the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, at least 25 percent of the GDP of African countries is lost annually to corruption. In such situations, the political and economic elites almost always elude the tax authorities. The joint Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank summed up the challenges encountered in locating proceeds of corruption by political or economic elites, especially where they have been moved across borders. The challenges include limited legal, investigative and judicial capacity, inadequate financial resources to pursue complex cases, and, non-responsive foreign jurisdictions where stolen assets are hidden, often in developed countries, to requests for legal assistance. Experiences from Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya are a clear indication that countries embarking on asset recovery operations encounter legal and practical difficulties as they tread on the thin line between justice and repatriation. The first challenge they encounter is the immunity from the process of criminal and civil law proceedings vested in sitting heads of states. Heads of states in Africa have a lot of leverage in determining the course that proceedings of such nature take and where political will is absent, recovery efforts amount to nought. Second, and closely related to the first, is the failure to initiate domestic proceedings or conclude already initiated proceedings by the state. Then there is the need to obtain and secure cooperation and collaboration among state agencies that have a bearing on asset recovery. Conflict and competition among agencies, perhaps for want of coherent application of the legal framework and procedures, can be a source of the problem pitting various agencies involved against one another. These include customs and taxation agencies, security intelligence agencies, asset forfeiture units and anti-corruption agencies. The lack of bilateral and international cooperation and support to effectively trace and recover looted proceeds has not helped matters. Such assets are often stashed away in foreign bank accounts and off shore investments. Accordingly effective tracing and recovery demands bilateral and international legal and political cooperation - the kind announced by the US Attorney General in Kampala. The Canadian MPs say there is a realization that economic sanctions are not always an appropriate response for those seeking to establish democracy and responsible governance. They hope that this new legislation will allow Canada to support democratic reforms and accountability by ensuring that any misappropriated property can be frozen immediately once a written request is received from a foreign state. We urge all members of Parliament to support this important bill so that Canada can move to freeze the assets of corrupt and repressive leaders in a timely manner, said Minister Nicholson.