Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 27–53 | Cite as

Inexplicable wealth and illicit enrichment of public officials: A model draft that respects human rights in corruption cases

  • Dan Wilsher


The employment of crimes of inexplicable wealth as an anti-corruption tool has been increasingly advocated in recent years. The United Nations Convention against Corruption calls for the creation of a crime of illicit enrichment. This paper seeks to evaluate the drafting of such crimes from human rights and criminal justice perspectives. The author considers the jurisprudence from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa, as well as the European Court of Human Rights. The paper also evaluates the Hong Kong inexplicable wealth offence and subjects it to criticism in terms of the rights of defendants and the lack of clarity in drafting. The author concludes that there is no need for a specific crime of inexplicable wealth. A crime of corruption is perfectly adequate. All that is required is the use of a special rule of evidence which places the evidential burden upon the defendant. The use of a mandatory presumption of law is the most clear analytical method of drafting. This is consistent with human rights standards and common law jurisprudence. Finally, regulatory offences requiring proper financial record keeping and declarations of wealth should be created alongside the more serious corruption offence. These could impose strict liability. Wealth previously declared by public officials should not be presumed to be corrupt funds for the purposes of any corruption prosecution. This approach is consistent with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and would represent an acceptable mode of implementing that treaty.


Reasonable Doubt Strict Liability United Nations Convention Corruption Case Innocent Defendant 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Wilsher
    • 1
  1. 1.City UniversityLondonUK

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