Corruption 2018-

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Transparency International
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

Understanding Corruption, Money Laundering and Organized Crime | Margaret Beare
The International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy held a free public lecture on October 28th, 2016 in conjunction with its conference “Follow the Money: Corruption, Money Laundering & Organized Crime.”
Professor Beare is one of the foremost organized crime experts in Canada. She is a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Department of Sociology at York University. Her research interests include transnational organized crime and money laundering.
Her book, Criminal Conspiracies: Organized Crime in Canada, 2nd ed. 2015 (Oxford University Press) was the first academic book to look at organized crime in Canada and to trace the development of the concept and the legislation, and remains the point of reference for scholarship in the field.
This event was organized by the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy (ICCLR) and supported by the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law (ISRCL), the Peter A. Allard School of Law, and Transparency International Canada.
(4 November 2016)

8 October
Elliott Broidy, a Top Trump Fund-Raiser, Charged in Foreign Influence Case
Federal authorities accused him of conspiring to violate lobbying laws in his unsuccessful efforts to resolve an investigation into the embezzlement of the Malaysian investment fund 1MDB.
The case centers on an accusation that Mr. Broidy accepted $6 million from a foreign client to lobby administration officials to end a federal investigation related to the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, known as 1MDB. The court filing also accuses Mr. Broidy of seeking the extradition of a Chinese citizen from the United States.

29 September
Mapping Corruption: The Interactive Exhibit
The Trump administration has brought its brand of corruption and self-dealing to every agency in the federal government, and it’s hard for anyone to keep on top of it all. We’ve mapped it out for you. Click on any agency building below, and unlock an extensive dossier of the activities happening inside.

23 September
The FinCEN Files Shed New Light on a Scandalous Episode at Deutsche Bank
Documents show that the bank used mirror trades to help major criminal organizations, terrorist groups, and drug cartels launder and transfer a geyser of dirty money.
(The New Yorker) The recently published FinCEN files detail the extent to which major banks have facilitated money laundering and add some fascinating detail to the mirror-trades affair. The FinCEN documents are based on Suspicious Activity Reports—essentially whistle-blowing reports made by banks themselves—filed to the U.S. government. They were leaked to BuzzFeed News, then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which shared them with news outlets around the world. According to the documents, one of the clients involved in mirror trades was a liaison for Vladislav (Blond) Leontyev, a Russian drug trafficker. (Leontyev denied any involvement in mirror trades or other criminal activity.) Meanwhile, nearly fifty million dollars were also funnelled through mirror trades to the Khanani network, whose clients include associates of Hezbollah and the Taliban.

23 August
Corruption Threatens Beirut Revival
(VOA) The U.N. Development Program warns widespread systematic corruption and lack of accountability in Lebanon will impede Beirut’s efforts to recover from the August 4 blast that has devastated the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.
A special report by the UNDP describes how deeply the rot has penetrated Lebanese society. At the Port of Beirut alone, the report finds lack of accountability has resulted in a financial deficit of nearly $800 million a year. It says the overall estimate of the annual cost of corruption is expected to be well over $1 billion.
“According to some estimates, the cost of corruption in Lebanon is equal to $5 billion a year. So, putting that number in perspective, it is about nine percent of the country’s GDP. And this is only the direct cost and does not include indirect costs, opportunity costs and also the social costs in terms of the health and well-being of citizens,” he said.
[Arkan El Seblani, the chief of UNDP’s Anti-Corruption and Integrity unit for Arab States] says who exactly is to blame for the explosion may never be known. However, he says lack of accountability for this catastrophe is likely to have an impact on response and recovery efforts. He says it is likely to dissuade international donors from funding the city’s rehabilitation needs.
“Leakage and embezzlement of money and goods, bribes and kickbacks in construction projects, as well as political co-optation of related efforts are all real and present in the context of Lebanon. And, this is not only limited to resources through the government institutions,” he said.

31 March
Corruption could cost lives in Latin America’s response to the coronavirus
In Latin America and around the world, governments are enacting emergency legislation to respond to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that their health systems have the medical equipment they need to save lives.
From basic supplies, like face masks and protective gowns, to more advanced devices like ventilators, front line health care workers are woefully unprepared to tackle the pandemic in most hospitals and clinics across the region.
While emergency legislation can help reduce the time it takes to procure these critical medical supplies, unfortunately, it often also allows governments to bypass the usual checks and balances on public spending.

30 March
Exclusive: Kushner Firm Built the Coronavirus Website Trump Promised
The extent of Oscar Health’s work on coronavirus testing hasn’t been previously reported
(The Atlantic) On March 13, President Donald Trump promised Americans they would soon be able to access a new website that would ask them about their symptoms and direct them to nearby coronavirus testing sites. He said Google was helping.
That wasn’t true. But in the following days, Oscar Health—a health-insurance company closely connected to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—developed a government website with the features the president had described. A team of Oscar engineers, project managers, and executives spent about five days building a stand-alone website at the government’s request, an Oscar spokesperson told The Atlantic. The company even dispatched two employees from New York to meet in person with federal officials in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said. Then the website was suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.
The full extent of Oscar’s work on the project has not been previously reported. The partnership between the administration and the firm suggests that Kushner may have mingled his family’s business interests with his political interests and his role in the administration’s coronavirus response. Kushner’s younger brother Joshua is a co-founder and major investor in Oscar, and Jared Kushner partially owned or controlled Oscar before he joined the White House. The company’s work on the coronavirus website could violate federal ethics laws, several experts said.

11 March
South Africa Clears President of Corruption
(OCCRP) The South African public anti-corruption watchdog has lost its case against the country’s president after a court cleared him of corruption allegations.
The Pretoria High Court on Tuesday ruled that President Cyril Ramaphosa had not misled parliament about a US$34,000 donation to his 2018 election campaign from local company Africa Global Operations, as alleged by the country’s Public Protector, Busiswe Mkhwebane.
Jurors returned a unanimous verdict, stating that the donation was of a private nature and that Ramaphosa was not therefore required to disclose that he had received the funds. Judge Keoagile Elias Matojane was decisive in his ruling, saying that “it is apparent from the report that the public protector was confused about the legal foundation of her finding.”
Ramaphosa assumed office on an anti-graft mandate following the resignation of his predecessor, President Jacob Zuma, amid myriad allegations of corruption. (Jacob Zuma – the survivor whose nine lives ran out)
Zuma’s nine-year presidency was dogged by legal controversy even before it began.


Corruption Perceptions Index 2018
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. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43.
It reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world. While there are exceptions, the data shows that despite some progress, most countries are failing to make serious inroads against corruption.
The number of poor performing countries in the Americas region should come as no surprise given the challenges to the democratic systems and diminishing political rights across North, South and Central America by populist and authoritarian leaders.
From President Trump (US) and President Bolsonaro (Brazil) to President Jimmy Morales (Guatemala) and President Maduro (Venezuela), the Americas region is witnessing a rise in some leaders and leadership styles that favour a number of the following tactics…
Canada is consistently a top performer on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with a score of 81 out of 100 on this year’s index.
The United States remains in second place (in the Americas) below Canada. With a score of 71, the United States lost four points since last year, dropping out of the top 20 countries on the CPI for the first time since 2011. The low score comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.

1 October
The Corruption Before Trump
How high-minded self-dealing paved the way for our low-minded president.
(NYT) Consider Kurt Volker, our special envoy for Ukraine until last weekend, who was inside the U.S. government advocating the arming of Kiev with missiles manufactured by a company that funds the think tank and the global consultancy he joined after his prior stint in government. …
Trump was indeed, as McCarthy wrote, “elected on his own kind of anti-corruption manifesto.” But there is nothing of republican austerity or Catonian civic virtue in how he has actually governed. Instead, the tone was set, well, by his entire pre-presidential career, but let’s say especially by his campaign-season hiring of Manafort, a statement that in place of elite self-enrichment through New World Order synergies, Trump was offering corruption without varnish, self-dealing without ideological self-justification.
And so it has been throughout his administration, which has been distinguished not by any sort of Savonarolan intolerance for impropriety, but by a brazen willingness, from Trump officials and Trump family members alike, to exploit the perks of office while in office rather than waiting decorously to cash in.
One could certainly imagine a world where a populist president pressed legitimately for an investigation into a rival’s son “to strike at business-as-usual” within a corrupt elite. But when that president’s own family has been breezily monetizing their advantages and blurring the private interest/public service line from Day 1 of this administration, it’s impossible to see such an investigation through any lens except Trump’s political self-interest.
If Hunter Biden Is Fair Game, So Are Trump’s Kids
Defenders of Trump would seem to be conceding that a President Kamala Harris could pressure foreign leaders to investigate Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump for corrupt business dealings.

27 September
Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption
Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense, but prominent Americans also shouldn’t be leveraging their names for payoffs from shady clients abroad.

4 March
House Democrats open sweeping corruption probe into Trump’s world
A key House committee with the power to impeach President Donald Trump kicked off a sweeping new investigation on Monday with document demands from the White House, Trump’s namesake company, charity, transition, inauguration and 2016 campaign, as well as several longtime associates and the president’s two adult sons.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, opened his much-anticipated probe with letters to 81 individuals, companies and government entities seeking a wide range of materials that go to the heart of allegations against the president — including abuses of power, corruption, and obstruction of justice.
All letter recipients have until March 18 to comply with the document requests, and the committee plans to issue subpoenas if necessary within several additional weeks to force compliance, the Democratic committee counsel said. The information requests seek the same material already turned over in the myriad ongoing probes, which Nadler’s staff said should help to avoid any battles with competing investigators and the Trump White House over executive privilege.
The document request was put together with sign-off from prosecutors in Mueller’s office and the Southern District of New York, the Democratic aides said.

28 January
Canada now dominates World Bank corruption list, thanks to SNC-Lavalin
“This is the outcome of a World Bank investigation relating [to] the Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh where World Bank investigators closely cooperated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in an effort to promote collective action against corruption.”
As a result of the misconduct found during the probe, the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm, and its affiliates as per World Bank policy, were debarred in April 2013 for 10 years, as part of a settlement with SNC-Lavalin. And in one fell swoop, 115 Canadian firms were blacklisted by the World Bank, making Canada seemingly look like the worst offending country.
Out of the more than 250 companies year to date on the World Bank’s running list of firms blacklisted from bidding on its global projects under its fraud and corruption policy, 117 are from Canada — with SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates representing 115 of those entries
There were 89 SNC-Lavalin affiliates, however, that were instead given a conditional non-debarment by the World Bank for 10 years. This is essentially a probation of sorts that requires these companies to adhere to compliance standards, but are still allowed to bid on the World Bank’s development projects around the world.
These sanctions were handed down instead of debarment, in part, because these companies had come forward to the bank had demonstrated concrete steps towards anti-corruption practices, said a World Bank spokesperson. (September 2013)

21 January
Paul Waldman: Trump’s corruption keeps getting more obvious
(WaPost) You don’t have to believe the absolute worst version of this scandal, where every accusation reveals an actual crime, to admit that Trump was and is both deeply corrupt and utterly dishonest.
That is the thread that binds nearly every element of the sprawling Russia scandal: corruption and dishonesty, over and over again.
The full story of the Moscow deal is still coming into focus, but the things we know already that are no longer in dispute are spectacularly damning. To repeat: Trump was running for president and proposing to change U.S. policy in ways favorable to Russia while simultaneously seeking the Russian government’s help to arrange a business deal that could have made him hundreds of millions of dollars. And he lied again and again to conceal that fact from the American public.

15 January
‘El Chapo’ paid ex-Mexican president $100 million bribe: trial witness
(Reuters) – Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman once paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, an ex-Guzman associate testified on Tuesday that he previously told U.S. authorities.


30 December
‘Exhibit A’: How McKinsey Got Entangled in a Bribery Case
The consultancy’s report became key evidence in a battle over the extradition of a powerful Ukrainian oligarch charged in a scheme to help Boeing.
Boeing asked McKinsey to evaluate a proposal, potentially worth $500 million annually, to mine titanium in India through a foreign partnership financed by an influential Ukrainian oligarch.
McKinsey says it advised Boeing of the risks of working with the oligarch and recommended “character due diligence.” Attached to its evaluation was a single PowerPoint slide in which McKinsey described what it said was the potential partner’s strategy for winning mining permits. It included bribing Indian officials.
The partner’s plan, McKinsey noted, was to “respect traditional bureaucratic process including use of bribes.” McKinsey also wrote that the partner had identified eight “key Indian officials” — named in the PowerPoint slide — whose influence was needed for the deal to go through. Nowhere in the slide did McKinsey advise that such a scheme would be illegal or unwise.

28 December
The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs
(RollingStone) Just before Christmas, Malaysian authorities filed criminal charges against Goldman, seeking a stunning $7.5 billion in reparations for the bank’s role in the scandal. Singapore authorities also announced they were expanding their own 1MDB probe to include Goldman.
In the 1MDB scheme, actors tied to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly siphoned mountains of cash out of a state investment fund. The misrouted money went to lavish parties with celebrity guests like Alicia Keys, a $35 million jet, works by Monet and Van Gogh, property in New York, Los Angeles and London, and (ironically) the funding of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.
The cash for this mother of all bacchanals originally came from bonds issued by Goldman, which earned a whopping $600 million from the Malaysians. The bank charged prices for its bond issuance that analysts believe were suspiciously high – like a massage price that suggests you’re probably getting more than a massage.
At year’s end, Goldman is known to be under investigation in the U.S., Singapore and Malaysia, while 1MDB probes are ongoing in at least 10 countries. Goldman has seen two ex-employees criminally charged in the U.S. since the summer, one of whom pleaded guilty.
What really set Wall Street afire was a pair of fall revelations. On November 8th, the Wall Street Journal reported longtime Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein – who stepped down on October 1st to “pursue other interests” – met on more than one occasion with one of the most infamous figures in the 1MDB scandal, Low Taek Jho, better known as “Jho Low.”
Singapore to Expand 1MDB Criminal Probe to Include Goldman

10 December
Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme became effective on Monday, when people or companies in Australia who are acting on behalf of foreign principals in the political sphere have to register and detail their activities on a public website.  While the US has been focused on Russian meddling in its 2016 elections, Australia has led the democratic pushback against quiet intrusions from authoritarian states, especially China.

While we tsk, tsk over African, Latin American and other dictators and kleptocrats
30 October
Venice Is Flooding Because of Climate Change, But Corruption Is Keeping It Under Water
For decades, city officials have been planning and working to erect a series of flood barriers meant to stave off some of the worst tides and storms that Venetians and visitors to the area are at least somewhat used to tolerating. Construction on underwater flood barriers, known as the Moses project, started in 1966 but didn’t get going in earnest until 2004.
Since that time, the project—one of the world’s most complex, large-scale civil engineering projects ever attempted—has been plagued by fraud. In 2014, Venice’s then-mayor Giorgio Orsoni, along with 30 others, was arrested for charges including corruption, illicit party financing, and tax fraud totaling $6.8 billion.

22 August
Elizabeth Warren: My comprehensive plan to end corruption in Washington
Our government systematically favors the rich over the poor, the donor class over the working class, the well-connected over the disconnected.
This is deliberate, and we need to call this what it is — corruption, plain and simple.
Corruption has seeped into the fabric of our government, tilting thousands of decisions away from the public good and toward the desires of those at the top. And, over time, bit by bit, like a cancer eating away at our democracy, corruption has eroded Americans’ faith in our government.
Change can start with reforming how our largest companies operate. Last week, I introduced the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would restore the once-common idea that giant American corporations should look out for a broad range of American stakeholders. …
Today, I’m introducing the most ambitious anti-corruption legislation proposed in Congress since Watergate. This is an aggressive set of reforms that would fundamentally change the way Washington does business. These reforms have one simple aim: to take power in Washington away from the wealthy, the powerful, and the well-connected who have corrupted our government and put power back in the hands of the American people.

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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