Recommendation 37: Mutual legal assistance

Countries should rapidly, constructively and effectively provide the widest possible range of mutual legal assistance in relation to money laundering, associated predicate offences and terrorist financing investigations, prosecutions, and related proceedings. Countries should have an adequate legal basis for providing assistance and, where appropriate, should have in place treaties, arrangements or other mechanisms to enhance cooperation. In particular, countries should:

(a) Not prohibit, or place unreasonable or unduly restrictive conditions on, the provision of mutual legal assistance.

(b) Ensure that they have clear and efficient processes for the timely prioritisation and execution of mutual legal assistance requests. Countries should use a central authority, or another established official mechanism, for effective transmission and execution of requests. To monitor progress on requests, a case management system should be maintained.

(c) Not refuse to execute a request for mutual legal assistance on the sole ground that the offence is also considered to involve fiscal matters.

(d) Not refuse to execute a request for mutual legal assistance on the grounds that laws require financial institutions to maintain secrecy or confidentiality.

(e) Maintain the confidentiality of mutual legal assistance requests they receive and the information contained in them, subject to fundamental principles of domestic law, in order to protect the integrity of the investigation or inquiry. If the requested country cannot comply with the requirement of confidentiality, it should promptly inform the requesting country.


Countries should render mutual legal assistance, notwithstanding the absence of dual criminality, if the assistance does not involve coercive actions. Countries should consider adopting such measures as may be necessary to enable them to provide a wide scope of assistance in the absence of dual criminality.

Where dual criminality is required for mutual legal assistance, that requirement should be deemed to be satisfied regardless of whether both countries place the offence within the same category of offence, or denominate the offence by the same terminology, provided that both countries criminalise the conduct underlying the offence.

Countries should ensure that, of the powers and investigative techniques required under Recommendation 31, and any other powers and investigative techniques available to their competent authorities:

(a) all those relating to the production, search and seizure of information, documents or evidence (including financial records) from financial institutions or other persons, and the taking of witness statements; and

(b) a broad range of other powers and investigative techniques; are also available for use in response to requests for mutual legal assistance, and, if consistent with their domestic framework, in response to direct requests from foreign judicial or law enforcement authorities to domestic counterparts.

To avoid conflicts of jurisdiction, consideration should be given to devising and applying mechanisms for determining the best venue for prosecution of defendants in the interests of justice in cases that are subject to prosecution in more than one country.

Countries should, when making mutual legal assistance requests, make best efforts to provide complete factual and legal information that will allow for timely and efficient execution of requests, including any need for urgency, and should send requests using expeditious means. Countries should, before sending requests, make best efforts to ascertain the legal requirements and formalities to obtain assistance.

The authorities responsible for mutual legal assistance (e.g. a Central Authority) should be provided with adequate financial, human and technical resources. Countries should have in place processes to ensure that the staff of such authorities maintain high professional standards, including standards concerning confidentiality, and should be of high integrity and be appropriately skilled.