Corruption & crime 2018- October 2021

Written by  //  October 17, 2021  //  Government & Governance, Justice & Law  //  Comments Off on Corruption & crime 2018- October 2021

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. Website (4 November 2016)
Project Trace works to reinforce counter-terrorism capacity and expertise in the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

(OCCRP) Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, has been named the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project’s 2020 Person of the Year for his role in promoting organized crime and corruption. Elected in the wake of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal as an anti-corruption candidate, Bolsonaro has instead surrounded himself with corrupt figures, used propaganda to promote his populist agenda, undermined the justice system, and waged a destructive war against the Amazon region that has enriched some of the country’s worst land owners.
Bolsonaro narrowly beat two other populist leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, for the dubious prize. Both finalists have also profited from propaganda, undermined democratic institutions in their countries, politicized their justice systems, shunned multilateral agreements, rewarded corrupt inner circles, and moved their countries away from democratic law and order toward autocracy. Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky completed the list of finalists.

17 October
Lebanon’s Chaos: Not Quite Déjà Vu
Lisa Van Dusen
(Policy Magazine) Lebanon is now reliving the protracted national drama of the Hariri bombing and the corruption-besieged investigation into it, only with a much bigger crater, a much longer casualty list and the knowledge that this time, the catalyzing tragedy was generated not (that we know of at this writing) by tactical depravity but by its frequent sidekick, stupidity.
The key contributor to the political crisis engulfing the Lebanese people this time is not the usual sectarianism. This cycle of strife began with the country’s worst economic meltdown of modern times, in which the Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value since 2019, inflation in 2020 was 84.9 percent and the port explosion was what chaos theorists might call the tipping point of a phase transition. In other words, it didn’t help.
Lebanon’s sectarian political divisions have existed in their modern form — through peace, war, Syrian suzerainty, Iranian interference, triumphs of pluralist democracy — for decades. But the current crisis, which, in its unprecedented alchemy of avoidable, man-made human suffering, echoes other recent hell-on-earth datelines from Venezuela to Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Haiti, is also the product of hypercorruption. Which is why the man who is both the potential saviour and therefore the target of the piece is neither a moderate politician nor a radical cleric but an independent judge with a record of incorruptibility.

7 October
Son of Afghanistan’s Former Defense Minister Buys $20.9 Million Beverly Hills Mansion
(Yahoo! news) Not much is publicly known about the various business interests or wealth origins of Wardak, an ethnic Pashtun refugee who was born in Afghanistan in 1977. But public corporation records show he’s the president of a Miami-based firm called AD Capital Group. Various reports have also noted that his older brother Hamed Wardak, a Georgetown University grad and onetime valedictorian, is a successful businessman who runs military transportation company NCL Holdings. Based in Virginia but operating primarily in Afghanistan, NCL has secured lucrative U.S. government contracts in exchange for protecting American supply routes in Afghanistan; those contracts were reportedly worth north of a whopping $360 million.

“FAT LEONARD,” A Nine-part Podcast Exploring the National Security Corruption Scandal With Exclusive Access To Leonard Francis, Debuts On Tuesday, October 5. Podcast will be available on PRX, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google podcasts and Stitcher

3-4 October
Pandora Papers: Rich and powerful deny wrongdoing after dump of purported secrets
Files linked to more than 35 current, former leaders
Kremlin sees no reason to make checks
Pakistan opposition demands named ministers quit
Jordan palace says nothing improper in disclosures
(Reuters) – The Czech prime minister, the king of Jordan and the chairman of a well-known Indian conglomerate were among global figures denying wrongdoing on Monday after the leak of what major news outlets called a secret trove of documents about offshore finance.
India said it would investigate cases linked to the data dump, known collectively as the “Pandora Papers”, while Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said officials named in the documents would be investigated – including himself.
Key findings from the Pandora Papers investigation
(WaPo)The Pandora Papers is an investigation based on more than 11.9 million documents revealing the flows of money, property and other assets concealed in the offshore financial system. The Washington Post and other news organizations exposed the involvement of political leaders, examined the growth of the industry within the United States and demonstrated how secrecy shields assets from governments, creditors and those abused or exploited by the wealthy and powerful. The trove of confidential information, the largest of its kind, was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which organized the investigation.

3-9 September
Corruption and Self-Dealing in Afghanistan and Other U.S.-Backed Security Sectors
(Carnegie) The Afghan security forces’ gradual and then sudden collapse is a cautionary tale about other U.S. efforts worldwide to bolster foreign security sectors that are hamstrung by corrosive and endemic corruption.
The best opportunity to establish professional and accountable Afghan military and police forces was in the first few years following the 2001 collapse of the Taliban: this was when both the Taliban and the warlords were in a state of flux. At the time, whichever security actor took the lead would largely shape the future course of the country. As the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction documented in a comprehensive 2017 study, initial Western efforts to build modern police and military forces were lackadaisical, and U.S. efforts were undermined by piecemeal measures followed by a diversion of resources to Iraq.
Afghanistan’s Corruption Was Made in America
How Self-Dealing Elites Failed in Both Countries
By Sarah Chayes
(Foreign Affairs) Corruption in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan wasn’t just a matter of constant street-level shakedowns. It was a system. No cops or customs agents got to put all their illicit gains in their own pockets. Some of that money flowed upward, in trickles that joined to form a mighty river of cash. Two surveys conducted in 2010 estimated the total amount paid in bribes each year in Afghanistan at between $2 billion and $5 billion—an amount equal to at least 13 percent of the country’s GDP. In return for the kickbacks, officials at the top sent protection back down the line.
In the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s swift reconquest of the country, and the chaotic, bloody exodus that has followed, U.S. officials have lamented that the Afghans failed to put up a fight. But how did the Americans ever expect Afghans to keep risking their lives on behalf of a government that had abused them—with Washington’s permission—for decades?
There is also another, deeper truth to grasp. The disaster in Afghanistan—and the United States’ complicity in allowing corruption to cripple the Afghan state and make it loathsome to its own people—is not only a failure of U.S. foreign policymaking. It is also a mirror, reflecting back a more florid version of the type of corruption that has long been undermining American democracy, as well.

24 August
Report: Italian Mafia Exploits Cryptocurrency and the Deep Web
(OCCRP) Italian Mafia groups, particularly ‘Ndrangheta, the country’s strongest and most powerful criminal syndicate, are growing more and more attuned to modern tools like cryptocurrency and the deep web, the Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate (DIA) said in their latest report covering the first half of 2020.
“Particular attention should then be paid to the advent of synthetic drugs, the sale of which is also spreading through the “deep web,” a more agile tool to use in the current pandemic situation and, with which it is possible to pay through cryptocurrencies and deliver anonymously,” the report said.

19 August
Alexei Navalny calls for tougher action on global corruption
Exclusive: Russian opposition leader likely to infuriate Kremlin with letter dictated from behind bars
(The Guardian) The jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has written from behind bars to urge western politicians to take meaningful action against global corruption and to impose personal sanctions against oligarchs “in the entourage of Vladimir Putin”.
Navalny argues that western leaders are reluctant to confront the problem of corruption when the person responsible is often standing next to them at a post-summit press conference. The theme needs to be promoted from a “secondary item” to what he calls the “big agenda”, together with war, migration, poverty and the climate crisis.
Only action against corruption can solve the world’s biggest problems
Alexei Navalny
In a message from his prison cell, the jailed Russian opposition activist calls for the west to take sanctions against oligarchs

29 July
BlackMatter rises from the ashes of notorious cybercrime gangs to pose new ransomware threat
A new ransomware gang that calls itself BlackMatter has launched itself on the dark web, and is actively attempting to recruit criminal partners and affiliates to attack large organisations in the United States, UK, Canada, and Australia.
As experts at Recorded Future describe, the BlackMatter gang is advertising for “initial access brokers” – individuals who can gain unauthorised access to enterprise networks, which can then be infected by ransomware.
For such access, BlackMatter is prepared to pay up to $100,000 for exclusive access to an organisation’s network upon which they can deploy ransomware and exfiltrate data.
In “rules” published on its website, the BlackMatter ransomware group states that it does not attack the following types of organisation:
Critical infrastructure facilities (nuclear power plants, power plants, water treatment facilities).
Oil and gas industry (pipelines, oil refineries).
Defense industry.
Non-profit companies.
Government sector.
The site goes on to say that if an organisation has been hit by its ransomware and qualifies under the above criteria then they can ask for free decryption.
The birth of DarkMatter appears, perhaps uncoincidentally, to coincide with the demise of the notorious DarkSide and REvil ransomware gangs following a series of high-profile attacks that caught the attention of the media worldwide and the US government.

23 July
EU takes aim at ransomware with plans to make Bitcoin traceable, prohibit anonymity
(CSO) The European Commission has set out new legislative proposals to make crypto transfers more traceable. While the plans will close some existing loopholes, the impact on cybercrime is likely to be minimal, experts say.
The European Commission (EC) has set out new legislative proposals to strengthen its anti-money laundering (AML) and countering terrorism financing (CFT) rules to tackle financial crime. A key element of those proposals includes changes to make crypto asset transfers more traceable and secure by forcing companies to collect certain details on recipients and senders and prohibiting the use of anonymous cryptocurrency wallets.
In a press release announcing the legislative proposals, the EC explains how the new laws would enhance traceability of cryptocurrency and why the scale of the problem warrants such action.

19 July
Pushing Back Against The Rising Tide Of Cybercrime
James Legg, President, ThycoticCentrify
(Forbes) Ransomware attacks using unauthorized network access have been surging in both frequency, and the size of their victims and payoffs for the perpetrators have risen to hundreds of millions of dollars. This past year, the New York Times reported that there were approximately 2,400 ransomware attacks in the U.S., and many of them were ultimately resolved by the victim making ransom payments, often using untraceable cryptocurrency, to restore their files. …
Understandably, the U.S. federal government has demonstrated a heightened level of concern. It has undertaken a series of initiatives in response, most recently on June 3. A bluntly worded letter from the Biden Administration urged the U.S. business community to implement security measures against ransomware attacks and to adopt many of the same defensive steps that it recently required of federal agencies and their contractors.
It followed an escalating series of related federal steps. On April 13, the U.S. Justice Department announced an effort to close any software backdoors, public or private, that had been exposed as a result of a problem found in Microsoft Exchange.

Israeli Spy Tech Used Against Daughter of Man Who Inspired “Hotel Rwanda”
Pegasus software made by Israeli firm NSO Group was used to spy on the daughter of imprisoned dissident Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions during the 1994 genocide were dramatized in a 2004 film starring Don Cheadle.
Rusesabagina has been a high-profile critic of Rwanda’s government for many years. He was the manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali during the genocide and helped shelter and save nearly 1,300 people. Rusesabagina fled Rwanda in 1996, ending up in the U.S. … In exile, Rusesabagina helped set up a coalition of opposition groups. Rwanda has accused him of a raft of terrorism-related offenses. His daughter, Kanimba, told Pegasus Project reporters that the charges are groundless.
… [His daughter Carine] Kanimba said Rwandan officials began to act in ways that suggested they were aware of her movements, schedule, and even private conversations. Some Belgian members of parliament who had only expressed support to her privately were subsequently contacted by Rwandan officials, she said.
… Journalist and author Michela Wrong, the author of a recent book on Rwanda’s treatment of dissidents, described Rwanda as “a state run along intelligence lines.” Kagame was trained in military intelligence and has carried that through into his presidency, and it’s likely he is personally involved in all major decisions on espionage, she said.
“There’s no sign of any real power base outside Kagame,” Wrong told OCCRP. “When you have a top-down system of that kind, with such strong executive control, you can take it as read that all of these key decisions – taking out opponents, harassing and intimidating members of the opposition, surveillance, and monitoring – all that goes straight to Kagame.”

10 June
How Bitcoin Has Fueled Ransomware Attacks
(NPR) The problem has long plagued bank robbers and drug smugglers: how to transport and hide huge sums of ill-gotten gains without getting caught?
In the past few years, ransomware hackers have found an almost perfect solution — cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It’s fast. It’s easy. Best of all, it’s largely anonymous and hard to trace.
“You now have a possibility to move millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency across national boundaries in seconds,” said Yonatan Striem-Amit, a co-founder of Cybereason, a Boston-based company that offers protection from hackers.

8 June
FBI-controlled AN0M app ensnares scores of alleged criminals in global police sting
The FBI and Australian police hatched a bold plan to ensnare criminals by duping them into using phones loaded with an encrypted messaging app that could be accessed by law enforcement.And crime bosses allegedly fell for it, believing their communications were secure.
Spy phones ‘in gangsters’ back pockets’ betray hundreds to police
(Reuters) A global sting in which organised crime gangs were sold encrypted phones that law enforcement officials could monitor has led to more than 800 arrests and the confiscation of drugs, weapons, cash and luxury cars, officials said on Tuesday.
The operation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Australian and European police ensnared suspects in Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East involved in the narcotics trade, the officials said.
Millions of dollars in cash were seized in raids around the world, along with 30 tonnes of drugs including more than eight tonnes of cocaine.
Operation Greenlight/Trojan Shield, conceived by Australian police and the FBI in 2018, was one of the biggest infiltrations and takeovers of a specialised encrypted network.
It began when U.S. officials paid a convicted drug trafficker to give them access to a smartphone that he had customised, on which he was installing ANOM, also styled An0m, a secure encrypted messaging app. The phones were then sold to organised crime networks through underworld distributors.
The FBI helped to infiltrate 12,000 devices into 300 criminal groups in more than 100 countries. … The phones were such a hit that Italian mafiosi, Asian triads, biker gangs and transnational drug syndicates all began using them, providing the FBI and its partner forces around the world with a trove of 27 million messages.
The booming ransomware business (podcast)
(BBC) Hackers are making millions from ransomware attacks. What can be done to stop them? Ed Butler speaks to professional ransomware negotiator Kurtis Minder, about the increasing professionalisation of the ransomware business. Kimberly Grauer, head of research at Chainalysis explains why following the bitcoin trail may be the best way of bringing ransomware gangs to justice and Vishaal Hariprasad, boss of cyber insurance company Resilience, tells us why the ransomware threat means there needs to be a stepchange in how companies view cyber security.
Kenneth Rogoff: A Curse Worse than Cash
Although prominent cryptocurrency advocates are politically connected and have democratized their base, regulators simply cannot sit on their hands forever. Malicious ransomware attacks targeting growing numbers of firms and individuals could prove to be the tipping point.
(Project Syndicate) [R]ansomware attacks that target growing numbers of firms and individuals could prove to be the turning point when regulators finally develop some backbone and step in. Many of us know people whose small, struggling companies have been decimated by such extortion. While governments may have better cryptocurrency-tracking tools than they let on, they are in an arms race with those who have found an ideal vehicle for making crime pay. Regulators need to wake up before it’s too late.
Pipeline CEO defends paying ransom amid cyberattack
(AP) — A pipeline company CEO on Tuesday defended his decisions to abruptly halt fuel distribution for much of the East Coast and pay millions to a criminal gang in Russia as he faced down one of the most disruptive ransomware attacks in U.S. history.
Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount said he had no choice, telling senators uneasy with his actions that he feared far worse consequences given the uncertainty the company was confronting as the attack unfolded last month.
His testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on the May 7 cyberattack provided a rare window into the dilemma faced by the private sector amid a storm of ransomware attacks in which overseas hackers breach a company’s network and encrypt their data, demanding a ransom to release it back to them.
Feds recover more than $2 million in ransomware payments from Colonial Pipeline hackers
The seizure of cryptocurrency paid by Colonial Pipeline to a Russian hacker ring marks a major milestone for the Department of Justice. According to Heather Cox Richardson “Colonial Pipeline…paid the ransom to get their operations back up and running quickly, but they had actually turned quickly to the FBI, which apparently asked them to pay the ransom so its officials could follow the money trail.

11 April
Colombia’s cartels target Europe with cocaine, corruption and torture
Armed Belgian police raids have lifted the lid on a sinister new front in the drugs war
(The Guardian) An incredible 27 tonnes of cocaine have been seized on Antwerp’s quays, in container ships and safe houses, with an estimated value of €1.4bn (£1.2bn), and many arrests have been made. It has been hailed as a mighty blow against what Belgian federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw calls “a world where morality has totally disappeared”, but Operation Sky has also highlighted a chilling development. Europe has eclipsed the US as the Colombian cartels’ favoured market, because of higher prices and much lower risks posed by European governments in terms of interdiction, extradition and seizure of assets.

9 April
The election that voters don’t want anyone to win
(CNN) On April 11, Peruvians are set to choose the country’s fifth president in just four years, as it reels from the highest coronavirus death rate in Latin America per capita.
But years of corruption scandals have left voters disgusted with the political class, and seemingly unimpressed with the array of candidates
Tied for first place at 9.8% are Hernando de Soto and Keiko Fujimori, who is the subject of a long-running corruption investigation; prosecutors recently asked a court for a 30-year jail term on charges linked to organized crime and money laundering. She has denied the allegations.
Fujimori, a right-wing conservative who has promised to focus on security issues, is the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori. First elected in 1990, he fled the country in 2000 amid allegations of corruption. …the 82-year-old is serving out a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses. A humanitarian pardon issued to the former president was overturned by Peru’s Supreme Court in 2019.

3 April
Five years later, Panama Papers still having a big impact
ICIJ’s massive cross-border investigation remains an influence — and a catchphrase — in politics, business, academia and pop culture, half a decade on.

1 March
Ex-President Sarkozy Gets Jail Sentence for Corruption in France
Nicolas Sarkozy was accused of trying to obtain confidential information from a judge by offering to help him land a job. He received a sentence of at least one year, but is likely to appeal.

24 February
Scandal-Plagued McKinsey Ousts Leader
(New York) To start with, there was a scandal involving the firm’s work for the South African state power monopoly, including contractual relationships with politically connected individuals that a parliamentary inquiry suggested could “constitute criminal conduct.”
… There was the work McKinsey performed in assisting ICE as it implemented the Trump administration’s retributive immigration-enforcement policies.
There were lawsuits over alleged conflicts of interest in its lucrative bankruptcy consulting practice and investigations by the Times and other publications into its secretive $12 billion internal hedge fund. Looking beyond the United States, there were demoralizing disclosures about the reputation-conscious firm’s alleged relationships with corrupt oligarchs, brutal autocrats, and the Chinese government.
Finally, there was the coup de grâce: a scandal over the advice the firm gave the drug company Purdue Pharma on how to “turbocharge” sales of its opioid Oxycontin, even after it was clear the drug was causing addiction and overdoses.

28 January
A momentous victory for global anti-corruption efforts
Kelsey Landau and Norman Eisen
(Brookings) Today’s release of Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index brought disturbing, though unsurprising, news. After four years of the Trump administration, the United States received its worst score for perceived corruption in almost a decade. Fortunately, the end of the Trump era brought with it not only brought damage to America’s reputation and institutions, but a promising new vehicle for their repair: the state-of-the-art anti-corruption provisions attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Fittingly, passing the NDAA required an override of then-President Trump’s veto of the bill, but its enactment represented the first major act of Congress in the new year and a profound lift to the United States’ damaged reputation for fighting corruption. Contained within the legislation’s 1,480 pages are anti-corruption measures that advocates within and outside of government have championed for more than a decade; with its passage, the United States joins the community of nations working to combat the transnational scourges of shell companies and money laundering. Anti-corruption opportunities for 2021 and beyond abound.

18 January
Rotten to the Core?
How America’s Political Decay Accelerated During the Trump Era
By Francis Fukuyama
(Foreign Affairs) Writing in Foreign Affairs in 2014, I lamented the political decay that had taken root in the United States, where governing institutions had become increasingly dysfunctional. “A combination of intellectual rigidity and the power of entrenched political actors is preventing those institutions from being reformed,” I wrote. “And there is no guarantee that the situation will change much without a major shock to the political order.”
In the years that immediately followed, it seemed possible that the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump might present a shock of that sort.
… The process of deterioration has continued at a startling pace and on a scale that was hard to anticipate back then, culminating in developments such as the January 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol—an act of insurrection encouraged by the president of the United States.
Meanwhile, the underlying conditions that brought on this crisis remain unchanged. The U.S. government is still captured by powerful elite groups that distort policy to their own benefit and undermine the legitimacy of the regime as a whole. And the system is still too rigid to reform itself. These conditions, however, have morphed in unexpected ways. Two emerging phenomena have worsened the situation enormously: new communications technologies have contributed to the disappearance of a common factual basis for democratic deliberation, and what were once policy differences between “blue” and “red” factions have hardened into divisions over cultural identity.
In theory, the capture of the U.S. government by elites could be a source of unity, since it angers both sides of the political divide. Unfortunately…For people on the left, the elites in question are corporations and capitalist interest groups—fossil fuel companies, Wall Street banks, hedge fund billionaires, and Republican mega-donors—whose lobbyists and money have worked to protect their interests against any sort of democratic reckoning. For those on the right, the malignant elites are the cultural power brokers in Hollywood, the mainstream media, universities, and major corporations that espouse a “woke” secular ideology at odds with what conservative Americans regard as traditional or Christian values. Even in areas where one might think these two views would overlap, such as growing worries over the power of giant technology companies, the concerns of the two sides are incompatible.
The Capitol riot wasn’t a fringe ‘uprising’. It was enabled by very deep pockets


23 December
Spanish police bust Russian mafia network operating on Mediterranean coast
More than 20 suspects, including city councilors and Civil Guard officers, were arrested in Alicante province and Ibiza for their involvement with Alexei Sirokov
(El Pais) …the arrest of Sirokov and another 22 people on December 14 wrapped up a seven-year investigation called Operation Testudo. Most of those arrested were Russian entrepreneurs as well as their advisors and business partners. But the operation also caught a police officer and two Civil Guard officers, two city councilors for security issues, civil servants working in urban planning, and several Spanish lawyers who acted as frontmen.

18 December
Warren re-ups bill to ban stock trading by lawmakers
The Massachusetts Democrat is making her push while two of her colleagues, Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are under fire for their stock trades.
(Politico) Warren’s proposed ban is part of a broader anti-corruption plan she promoted on the presidential campaign trail and is reintroducing with hopes that it can gain traction now that she has returned to the Senate. Warren, who said she would make such reform her first priority as president, proposes many changes to federal ethics law, including creating lifetime bans on lobbying for former members of Congress, expanding federal conflict-of-interest rules and barring lobbyists from fundraising for political candidates. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) introduced a companion bill in the House.
The Trump family keeps grifting, to the end and beyond
by Paul Waldman
(WaPo) If you thought you’d heard about all the financial chicanery Donald Trump and his family have engaged in during his presidency, rest assured there’s plenty more to be revealed. Here’s the latest story, courtesy of Business Insider:

President Donald Trump’s most powerful advisor, Jared Kushner, approved the creation of a campaign shell company that secretly paid the president’s family members and spent almost half of the campaign’s $1.26 billion war chest, a person familiar with the operation told Insider.
The operation acted almost like a campaign within a campaign. It paid some of Trump’s top advisors and family members, while shielding financial and operational details from public scrutiny.
When Kushner and others created the company in April 2018, they picked Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump to become its president, Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew John Pence as its vice president, and Trump campaign Chief Financial Officer Sean Dollman as its treasurer and secretary, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations about the shell company

3 December
Biden Expected to Put the World’s Kleptocrats on Notice
The U.S. president-elect and his top advisors have made the fight against dirty money one of their early priorities. (paywall)

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.

23 February
This Is How Kleptocracies Work
Trump’s pardons were shocking to some, but to me they were eerily familiar—straight out of the kleptocratic playbook I’ve studied in a dozen other countries.
By Sarah Chayes, Author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens National Security
Corruption, I realized with a start, is not simply a matter of individual greed. It is more like a sophisticated operating system, employed by networks whose objective is to maximize their members’ riches. And a bargain holds that system together: Money and favors flow upward (from aides to presidents, for instance) and downward in return.
Subordinates owe fealty to their network higher-ups, and a cut of whatever revenue streams they manage to access. In Afghanistan and other notorious kleptocracies I’ve studied, such cash transfers might include a percentage of extorted bribes, or kickbacks on contracts for development projects. Many government jobs carry an explicit purchase price, payable in a lump sum or indefinite monthly installments.

17 January
A Navy scandal sheds light on the nature of bribery and the limits of free speech
Marcus Hedahl, Associate Professor of Philosophy, United States Naval Academy
(The Conversation) The so-called “Fat Leonard scandal” is the largest bribery and corruption case in U.S. Navy history.
The key player is Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian-born businessman based in Singapore who was commonly referred to as “Fat Leonard” because of his 350-pound weight. He ran a company called Glenn Defense Marine Asia that had U.S. government contracts to provide various services to Navy ships in Asian ports – docking, refueling, sewage removal and shore transportation for both cargo and personnel.
In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to plying Navy officers with cash and favors in exchange for their efforts to steer the Navy’s Pacific fleet to ports where his company could provide services. Then, the company would fabricate bids by nonexistent companies to make its own charges look competitive, overbill the Navy for services and even draw up fake invoices to collect money for goods and services it never provided to the ships and crews.


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.
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.  (September 2013)

21 January
Paul Waldman: Trump’s corruption keeps getting more obvious
(WaPost) 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.
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
(Rolling Stone) 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.

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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