Corruption 2018

Written by  //  July 31, 2018  //  Government & Governance  //  No comments

Transparency International
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

while we tsk, tsk over African, Latin American and other dictators kleptocrats
31 July
This Is So Much Bigger Than Paul Manafort
With Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman on trial, America is reckoning with its very serious kleptocracy problem.
(The Atlantic) Conventional wisdom long held that America’s free market would never tolerate the sort of clientelism, nepotism, and outright theft that prevailed in places like Brazil and Italy. Americans thought that globalization would export the hygienic habits of this nation’s financial system and its values of good government to the rest of the world. But over the past three decades, the opposite transpired: America has become the sanctuary of choice for laundered money, a bastion of shell companies and anonymously purchased real estate. American elites have learned to plant money offshore with acumen that comes close to matching their crooked counterparts’ abroad.

21 May
Adam Serwer: There Is Only One Trump Scandal
Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.
(The Atlantic) Take recent developments: There’s the president’s attempt to aid the Chinese telecom company ZTE, mere hours after the Chinese government approved funding for a project in the vicinity of a Trump property in Indonesia. There’s the millions of dollars corporations paid to Cohen after the election in an attempt to influence administration policy in their favor. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urged banks to pay off politicians in an effort to weaken the CFPB’s powers legislatively—since taking the helm of CFPB, Mulvaney has dropped a number of cases against payday lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates, after taking thousands from the industry as a congressman. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s own mini-universe of scandals stems from his improper relationships with industry figures, his misuse of taxpayer funds, and his attempts to obscure the truth about both. Trump attempted to pressure the Postmaster General to increase fees on Amazon in order to punish The Washington Post, which has published many stories detailing wrongdoing and misbehavior on the part of the Trump administration, and the Trump campaign before that. Not long after The New York Times reported that Trump officials may have solicited campaign help not just from Russia, but also from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the president “demanded” that the Justice Department launch an inquiry into whether the FBI improperly investigated a campaign that was eagerly soliciting international aid to swing the election in its favor.
In each of these cases, the president or one of his associates was seeking to profit, personally or financially, from their official duties and powers.

1 May
As U.K. moves to shut down tax-haven secrecy, Canada seen lagging
British legislation will compel territories like Cayman Islands to disclose real owners of shell companies
(CBC) The U.K. passed legislation on Tuesday that aims to remove the cloak of secrecy shrouding many of the British tax havens, with activists hailing it as a major victory in the fight against corruption and tax dodging.
Amendments added at the last hour to a sanctions and anti-money laundering bill will compel jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands to create public databases setting out the real owners of all companies registered there. It’s a step long sought by critics, who say the anonymity offered by offshore shell companies often permits people to hide vast illicit sums.
The legislation affects the so-called British Overseas Territories and requires them to create public beneficial-ownership registries by the end of 2020, failing which the U.K. government will impose them. Just one of those territories, the British Virgin Islands, was the locale of half the 210,000 companies exposed in the Panama Papers leak in 2016.

16 April
‘They Eat Money’: How Mandela’s Political Heirs Grow Rich Off Corruption
(NYT) A dairy farm turned out to be a classic South African fraud, prosecutors say: Millions of dollars from state coffers, meant to uplift the poor, vanished in a web of bank accounts controlled by politically connected companies and individuals
In the generation since apartheid ended in 1994, tens of billions of dollars in public funds — intended to develop the economy and improve the lives of black South Africans — have been siphoned off by leaders of the A.N.C., the very organization that had promised them a new, equal and just nation.
Corruption has enriched A.N.C. leaders and their business allies — black and white South Africans, as well as foreigners. But the supposed beneficiaries of many government projects, in whose names the money was spent, have been left with little but seething anger and deepening disillusionment with the state of post-apartheid South Africa.

13 April
Summit Of The Americas Begins, Minus 1 American: Trump
(NPR) The formal theme of the summit is combating corruption. But that’s an awkward message in Peru, where a president suspected of corruption was forced from office less than a month ago.
“Peru has had five presidents since I lived there in the late ’80s,” Shifter said. “And all of them have either been convicted, accused, or under investigation for corruption.”
President Trump has been under scrutiny at home over ethics. At least five of his past or present Cabinet secretaries have been criticized for alleged ethics violations, and the president himself is being sued over possible conflicts of interest.
In addition, this week, the Associated Press reported that lawyers for the Trump Organization tried to enlist the help of Panama’s president in a court battle over management of a former Trump hotel. Panama’s foreign secretary said, “I don’t believe the executive branch has a position to take while the issue is in the judicial process.”

1 April
501 Days in Swampland
A constant drip of self-dealing. And this is just what we know so far …
By Joy Crane and Nick Tabor
(New York Magazine) More than at any time in history, the president of the United States is actively using the power and prestige of his office to line his own pockets: landing loans for his businesses, steering wealthy buyers to his condos, securing cheap foreign labor for his resorts, preserving federal subsidies for his housing projects, easing regulations on his golf courses, licensing his name to overseas projects, even peddling coffee mugs and shot glasses bearing the presidential seal. For Trump, whose business revolves around the marketability of his name, there has proved to be no public policy too big, and no private opportunity too crass, to exploit for personal profit.
… The very first place Trump headed after being sworn in — his true destination all along, in a sense — was the Old Post Office and Clock Tower, which only 12 days before the election had been repurposed as the Trump International Hotel Washington. The elegant granite structure, whose architectural character Trump had promised to preserve, was now besmirched by a gaudy, faux-gold sign bearing his name. The carefully choreographed stop sent a clear signal to the foreign governments, lobbyists, and corporate interests keen on currying favor in Washington: The rewards of government would now be reaped by a single man — and the people would bear the cost.
Corruption, Not Russia, Is Trump’s Greatest Political Liability
Not since the Harding administration has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion.
It should take very little work — and be a very big priority — for Democratic candidates to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed. For all the mystery still surrounding the Russia investigation, for instance, it is already clear that the narrative revolves around a lust (and desperation) for money.

14 March
Panama Papers law firm Mossack Fonseca closes its doors
Mossack Fonseca, the offshore law firm whose 11.5 million leaked files were at the heart of the Panama Papers investigation, will close.
The law firm will shutter its remaining offices by the end of the month, according to a statement obtained by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“The reputational deterioration, the media campaign, the financial siege and the irregular actions of some Panamanian authorities have caused irreparable damage, whose obligatory consequence is the total cessation of operations to the public,” according to the law firm’s statement.
The law firm’s demise comes almost two years after the Panama Papers investigation revealed the offshore ties of some of the world’s most powerful and most corrupt people. The firm’s leaked internal files contained information on more than 214,000 offshore entities tied to 12 current or former heads of state, 140 politicians and others. The investigation also brought down the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan.

5 March
At Every Corner, Mueller Finds More Corruption
Mueller’s investigation is clearly now going into the deepest, darkest corners of Everywhere. He’s looking into shady money from the United Arab Emirates and he’s questioning whether or not the Saudi blockade of Qatar was in retaliation for the Qatari sheikhs’ understandable reluctance to loan gobs of cash to Jared Kushner.
He is looking at the Trump campaign and the Trump presidency* as one massive three-year money-suck, a fundraising mechanism to enrich its inside players and to monetize the political system, and then the presidency, for every last dollar, riyal, or ruble that can be squeezed out of both of those institutions. Mueller is finding corruption everywhere he looks.

2 March
Michael A. Cohen: A Cabinet full of corruption
Earlier this week, it was reported that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who has a net worth of approximately $29 million, spent $31,000 in taxpayer money on a dining set for his private office. This is the second time in recent months that Carson has been in ethical trouble. Earlier this year he was forced to request an inspector general investigation of his son, Ben Carson Jr., for his involvement in a HUD listening tour that represented a potential conflict of interest.
Carson’s bad behavior would, in most presidential administrations, stand out. In Trump’s Washington, we call it Tuesday. After all, in just 13 months since Trump took office, his Cabinet has produced a stunning compilation of malfeasance, nest feathering, sleaziness, and drinking from the public trough. Here’s a partial list.

25 February
The Plot Against America
Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington.
(The Atlantic Magazine March 2018 edition) From both the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, vast disclosures illuminating previously hidden offshore accounts of the rich and powerful worldwide, we can see the full extent to which corruption has become the master narrative of our times. We live in a world of smash-and-grab fortunes, amassed through political connections and outright theft. Paul Manafort, over the course of his career, was a great normalizer of corruption. The firm he created in the 1980s obliterated traditional concerns about conflicts of interest. It imported the ethos of the permanent campaign into lobbying and, therefore, into the construction of public policy. …
The irony of all this is that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump ran around the country telling voters that he’d drain the swamp when he got to Washington. Instead, he’s stocked it with a new roster of creatures — few of whom seem to have any compunction about taking advantage of their positions of power, wasting taxpayer dollars and raiding the public treasury for their own personal benefit. In Trump’s America, power corrupts and Trump corrupts absolutely.

23 February
The De-Trumpification Agenda
By Michelle Goldberg
It’s impossible, in real time, to keep up with every new Trumpian advance in corruption and self-dealing, and Republicans in Congress aren’t even trying. True, they’ve been moved to act in a few high-profile cases — on Wednesday, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded documents about government-funded luxury travel by Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. But overall, the administration enjoys a corrosive degree of impunity.
The Republican monopoly on federal power, however, will not last forever. Assuming American democracy survives Trump, there will someday be an opportunity to seek accountability from the president and his entourage. If we expect America to ever again be more than a squalid kleptocracy, we’re going to need a comprehensive plan of de-Trumpification, including wide-ranging investigations and legal reforms. It’s not too early to start thinking about what that might look like.
Some preliminary work on de-Trumpification has already begun. In January, Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, and Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that they’d be leading a task force on the rule of law and democracy at the Brennan Center for Justice, part of New York University’s law school. The idea is to figure out which of the norms that Trump has blithely discarded can be written into law or otherwise codified.

Fearing Corruption Inquiry, Former Mexico Party Chief Moves to Block Arrest
(NYT) Manlio Fabio Beltrones has presided over Mexican politics with an assured hand, wielding enormous power, amassing a personal fortune and skating past scandals that might have dragged down a less capable operator.
But a sweeping corruption case is threatening his legal and political future — as well as the prospects of his Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governs the nation under President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The case involves the illegal siphoning of millions of dollars in public money to fund his party’s political campaigns in 2016. Cooperating witnesses contend that Mr. Beltrones, the party’s president at the time, designed and spearheaded the plan, according to documents and testimony reviewed by The New York Times.

21 February

Corruption Perceptions Index 2017

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while further analysis shows journalists and activists in corrupt countries risking their lives every day in an effort to speak out.
The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new.
This year, New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).

Top Aide to Netanyahu Turns State Witness as Graft Cases Multiply
(NYT) One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest and longest-serving aides appears ready to incriminate him.The aide’s agreement to become a government witness was the latest twist in a spiraling graft scandal dimming Mr. Netanyahu’s legal and political chances of survival, despite his insistence that he has done nothing wrong.
The police are investigating whether Mr. Netanyahu — who is already battling separate bribery allegations — provided official favors to Israel’s largest telecommunications company in exchange for positive coverage in online news.

15 February
NRA, Russia and Trump: How ‘dark money’ is poisoning American democracy
By Alex Tausanovitch and Diana Pilipenko of the Center for American Progress
(CNBC) The FBI is investigating the National Rifle Association to determine whether Russians illegally funneled money through the organization to help the Trump campaign.
Beyond Russian meddling, this allegation illustrates a problem of even broader scope in our political system.
Although much of the reporting on Russia has focused on whether there was “collusion” with the Trump campaign — a genuine concern — the investigation is also revealing another disquieting reality: that American democracy has a money laundering problem.
Both in their personal finances and in their campaign support, politicians are relying on money hidden to the public, money which threatens to make them answerable to interests beyond those of the citizens they represent. The only way to combat this problem is to start shining a light on the dark corners of our politics.

24 January
Brazil braces for corruption appeal that could make or break ex-president Lula
Civil unrest expected as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, still hugely popular despite corruption conviction, fights to stay in upcoming election race

16 January
The Trump presidency: On track to becoming the most corrupt in U.S. history?
(WaPost) What distinguishes Trump from all his predecessors is the fact that he barely conceals his intentions. After a lifetime spent not only manipulating the economic, legal, and political systems to increase his wealth but publicly bragging about his ability to do so, there was little doubt that he’s continue in the same vein as president. He refused to divest himself from his businesses, then held a press conference standing next to piles of what were almost certainly stacks of blank paper inside blank folders that he claimed were the “documents” he had to sign to effect the transfer of those businesses to his sons.

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