JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Corruption & crime November 2021-
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
Suisse Secrets (OCCRP)
The Rise of Strategic Corruption – How States Weaponize Graft
The Robber Barons of Beijing
More on corruption
The Rise of Strategic Corruption
How States Weaponize Graft
(Foreign Affairs) … What is new…is the transformation of corruption into an instrument of national strategy. In recent years, a number of countries—China and Russia, in particular—have found ways to take the kind of corruption that was previously a mere feature of their own political systems and transform it into a weapon on the global stage. Countries have done this before, but never on the scale seen today. (June 2020)
The Fight Against China’s Bribe Machine
The Pitfalls of Conducting U.S. Foreign Policy Through the Courts (October 2021)
11-15 December 2023
Tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (CoSP10)
The United States of America is honored to host the tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties (COSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). This Conference will gather global leaders to make policy decisions and to continue its work in charting the way forward for the international community in the prevention and fight against corruption.
Desperate Putin makes £80m cash grab by money laundering gold to bankroll war
A new report is calling for wider sanctions against Russia, new supply chain controls, and increased accountability for international mining companies involved with regimes funding Wagner.
Canadian miners accused of indirectly supporting Wagner Group in Mali
(Globe & Mail) Three Canadian mining companies in Mali are indirectly helping its government finance the cost of Russian mercenaries who have been implicated in massacres and other atrocities in the country, a new report says.
Mali’s military junta, which came to power in a series of coups in 2020 and 2021, is paying a reported US$10-million a month to the Wagner Group, a Russian military contractor, in exchange for the deployment of an estimated 1,000 soldiers in the West African country.
By June this year, those payments had amounted to more than US$200-million, according to the Blood Gold Report, a 62-page report published Tuesday.
18 September 2023
Research group established to investigate gold trade violence in Africa
The Blood Gold Report will explore the extent to which Africa’s gold trade is funding Russian violence.
Key takeaways from “Tackling global corruption to strengthen democracy and security”
Eric Urby and Claire Tempelman
On December 6, the Brookings Institution held an inaugural event for the newly launched Anti-Corruption, Democracy, and Security (ACDS) project, focused on addressing the most difficult corruption challenges globally. At the event, participants marked the second anniversary of the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption and focused on priorities in the lead up to the upcoming 10th Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Atlanta, Georgia.
How anti-corruption efforts strengthen global democracy and security (podcast)
(Brookings) Corrupt regimes around the world threaten global democracy and security. On this episode of The Current, Norman Eisen, senior fellow in Governance Studies and chair of the newly launched global Anti-Corruption, Democracy, and Security (ACDS) project at Brookings, talks about the project and explains why fighting corruption and promoting good governance are key to strengthen democracy and security.
Singapore’s clean image under scrutiny amid money laundering scandal
City-state’s anti-money laundering controls in spotlight after arrest of 10 foreigners and seizure of $736m in assets.
(Al Jazeera) Singapore…is under scrutiny amid a huge money laundering scandal that has so far resulted in 10 arrests and the seizure of assets worth 1.8 billion Singaporean dollars ($1.3bn).
Singapore police last month arrested 10 foreign nationals…. The suspects are all originally from Fujian in eastern China but include Cypriot, Turkish, Cambodian and Vanuatuan passport holders.
The Singapore Police Force has alleged the seized assets are the ill-gotten gains of organised crime committed overseas, including scams and online gambling, whose proceeds were brought into Singapore and filtered through the country’s financial institutions.
EU’s Europol sets up financial crime unit as new risks surge
Laura Kovesi: Is the EU doing enough to tackle financial crime?
Croatia added to ‘grey list’ by financial crimes watchdog
Six secrets uncovered by Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia investigation
Diamonds, girlfriends, illicit lobbying: The fall of a former ambassador
(WaPo) …in the years since [his retirement in 2016], [Richard G. Olson Jr] has come under federal investigation for a pattern of conduct atypical of the upright, protocol-observant world of international diplomacy.
Previously undisclosed records filed in court reveal that the State Department’s inspector general investigated Olson for failing to report a $60,000 gift of diamond jewelry to his mother-in-law from the emir of Dubai. As part of a broader investigation, the FBI also questioned him about his extramarital affair with a journalist working in Pakistan while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, according to the documents.
The FBI learned that Olson had arranged for a Pakistani American businessman — who is now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence for illegal campaign donations and tax crimes — to pay $25,000 in tuition bills that enabled the ambassador’s girlfriend to move to New York and attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Records show that Olson led a complicated love life that could have left him vulnerable to blackmail. While stationed in Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, he dated multiple women even though he was married to another U.S. diplomat, who was serving at the time as the ambassador to Libya, court documents filed by his attorneys show.
Records show that Olson led a complicated love life that could have left him vulnerable to blackmail. While stationed in Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, he dated multiple women even though he was married to another U.S. diplomat, who was serving at the time as the ambassador to Libya, court documents filed by his attorneys show.
How has INTERPOL’s role in the fight against organised crime evolved?
(Euronews) Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL (JS): … INTERPOL’s mandate is that despite political circumstances, despite the difficult situation, we try to facilitate at least a minimum level or the best possible level of international police cooperation. So, if it is a political conflict, of course, we have to avoid that our tools and services are being abused for political purposes, and we are taking that role very seriously, on the one hand. On the other hand, we say we keep the channels of international police cooperation open because, again, criminals exploit any kind of crisis we are having. In particular, to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, we are very concerned about the weapons that are being delivered and that as soon as the weapons are silent might end up in other theatres around the world. We have seen that in the Balkans. There are many examples. We have seen that criminals try to exploit desperate victims of this conflict who try to leave the country looking for shelter: for example women, and children. … We have to understand the flexibility of transnational organized crime. They are permanently looking for new opportunities to make money. We have seen that during the pandemic, a kind of parallel pandemic of cyber-enabled crime, for instance, where the criminals very quickly shifted to the new vulnerabilities. And again, vulnerabilities in today’s world, unfortunately, we have a lot around the world, are being considered opportunities for criminals.
Interpol fights for survival on its 100th birthday
Head of crime-fighting agency pushes back against criticism of its famed Red Notice system.
(Politico Eu) Rising geopolitical tensions including between the United States and Russia and China are challenging the agency’s operating model, which relies on voluntary information-sharing among its members’ police forces.
Add to that persistent claims that its famed Red Notice alert system is subject to political manipulation and accusations of complicity in torture against Interpol’s Emirati president, Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, and the crime-fighting organization faces a perfect storm.
Qatargate judge Michel Claise: ‘The truth will explode one day’
‘Manipulators,’ including in the media, are trying to distort the facts of the anti-corruption investigation, he warns
(Politico Eu) The true story behind Qatargate, the corruption probe at the European Parliament, will emerge one day, one of the chief investigators said.
Michel Claise, a Belgian investigating judge who recused himself from the probe in June, made the prediction as he took aim at unnamed people and media outlets for distorting the real nature of the case.
“Everything is in the file, the truth is found there, and not elsewhere, not in the television studios nor in certain magazines. And the truth will explode one day in the face of those manipulators who try very simply to distort it,” Claise told RTBF’s radio station La Première Wednesday.
…The judge, who writes detective novels in his spare time, remained tight-lipped about the details of the corruption probe, which has so far led to charges against the three accused MEPs, plus one former EU lawmaker and his assistant. The inside story of Qatargate — when it comes — won’t come from him, he said, because he is legally bound not to comment on the case he worked on.
Claise also bemoaned Belgium’s anti-corruption efforts, describing the country as a “bad student.” He pushed for the creation of a dedicated anti-corruption agency, claiming the federal police service is going bankrupt.
Qatargate: European Parliament corruption scandal
Zelenskyy sends strong signals with choice for Ukraine’s new defense chief
Rustem Umerov, the first Crimea native to get such a high post in Kyiv, is praised for his diplomatic and management skills.
(Politico Eu) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s choice for the country’s new defense minister sends two clear signals to Ukraine’s allies and adversaries: Kyiv is serious about cleaning up corruption, and steadfast about regaining Crimea from Russian control.
Rustem Umerov, whom Zelenskyy has put forward to replace Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, is a Crimean Tatar with deep business and political experience, including chairing Ukraine’s commission monitoring international financial and military aid to the country’s war effort. As head of the State Property Fund since last year, he has revitalized the country’s privatization efforts.
The defense ministry “needs new approaches,” Zelenskyy said in dismissing Reznikov, whose ministry has been plagued by corruption allegations. Reznikov himself hasn’t been implicated, but the controversy has tainted the ministry.
As well as fighting Russia, Ukrainians are battling corruption at home
As the UK is set to hold a conference on how to rebuild postwar Ukraine, many worry what will happen to funds sent through a system where money disappears
Above all, the private sector is not going to risk an investment if it fears the funding is going into not a proposed new bridge but an oligarch’s back pocket. As a recent USAid report says: “If investors believe they must contend with unscrupulous rent-seeking officials … or rely on a flawed judiciary to protect their rights, they will be less likely to invest.”
So, alongside any reconstruction conference is a discussion, of varying degrees of frankness, about the conditions the west can set to help Ukraine kick the corruption habit. This is not of passing interest to a cadre of US officials who have spent considerable time trying to reform Ukraine, including Joe Biden. He told Brookings in 2015: “The corruption is so endemic and so deep and so consequential, it’s really, really, really, really hard to get it out of the system.”
Africa’s Richest City Is Crumbling Under Chaos and Corruption
At the heart of the dysfunction in Johannesburg is a governance crisis.
(Bloomberg) South Africans [are] forced to use more and more ingenuity to navigate daily life: Charge devices, take a shower before the hot water goes off and leave the house before the traffic lights go out. Schools, hospitals, restaurants and businesses rely on backup generators to keep running. Homeless people guide vehicles through potholed streets for cash.
The continent’s richest city was built on gold, but it’s now defined by chaos, crime and corruption more than ever. It encapsulates the wider collapse of basic services across South Africa. From a broken railway network disrupting trade to archaic sanitation that triggered a recent cholera outbreak near the capital, Pretoria, parts of the country increasingly look like a failing state.
In wake of Qatargate, Commission releases binding ethics accord
The European Commission’s ethics body proposal has set the stage for a partisan fight a year ahead of EU elections.
(Politico Eu) Under the European Commission’s proposal for an ethics body, adopted Wednesday and made public Thursday, nine EU institutions would create — and enforce — binding commitments to implement common ethics standards for political officials working in them.
A promise that long predates the Qatargate corruption affair that rocked the European Parliament half a year ago, the plan is the EU executive’s attempt to overcome legal and political hurdles to achieve an independent ethics cop that can enforce rules across EU bodies.
While a left-leaning coalition of MEPs called for a powerful ethics enforcer that could investigate and punish in 2021, advocates of maintaining their freedom of mandate on the right have remained a powerful force behind the scenes. With a year to go until the European Parliament elections, the ethics body proposal has set the stage for a political fight along these same lines.
Is Canada Doing Enough to Curb Corruption? (video)
(The Agenda with Steve Paikin) Canada’s place on Transparency International’s corruption perception ranking was unchanged this year, at just 14th. For insight into what Canada needs to do to improve that, we welcome: Akaash Maharaj, ambassador-at-large for the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption; Garry Clement, who spent 34 years with the RCMP investigating organized crime; and James Cohen, executive director Transparency International Canada.
The Atlas of Impunity
Impunity is the exercise of power without accountability, which becomes, in its starkest form, the commission of crimes without punishment. In a phrase, impunity is the idea that “the law is for suckers,” a notion that human rights leaders fear is on the rise in political institutions around the world. From behavior in conflict to economic exploitation, from environmental degradation to democratic backsliding, the battle between impunity and accountability is a critical lens for understanding what is happening in the world.
The Atlas of Impunity is a quantitative assessment of this holistic definition of impunity, measured by independent indicators across five sites in society. These dimensions include unaccountable governance, human rights abuse, conflict and violence, economic exploitation, and environmental degradation. The Atlas scores and ranks the level of impunity in 163 countries and provides partial, indicative scoring for another 34.
Above all, the Atlas is intended to provide a practical and accessible tool to draw attention to abuses of power and press policymakers for change. The report and accompanying data aim to shine a light on the norms and practices that perpetuate impunity and hinder accountability around the world.
How Corruption and Misrule Made Turkey’s Earthquake Deadlier
By Gonul Tol, founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program and author of Erdogan’s War: A Strongman’s Struggle at Home and in Syria.
(Foreign Policy) It wasn’t just loved ones who were buried under the rubble but also the promises of good governance, a corruption-free country, and a state that is responsive to the needs of its people.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made those promises after his Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to power following another devastating quake in northwestern Turkey in 1999, when thousands of people died due to the government’s slow response. He blamed all the ills of the 1990s on widespread corruption, dysfunctional governments, and unresponsive state institutions and pledged that, under his rule, things would change radically.
Erdogan has centralized power in his own hands. To do that, he hollowed out state institutions, placed loyalists in key positions, wiped out most civil society organizations, and enriched his cronies to create a small circle of loyalists around him. The culmination of all those things paved the way for the tragedy that struck my country on Monday.
The sheer magnitude of the quake made it deadly, but academic research shows that earthquakes kill more people in countries affected by widespread corruption. The Turkish economy under Erdogan rode high on the back of a construction boom. He enriched a small circle of close associates from the construction sector by awarding them infrastructure projects without competitive tenders or proper regulatory oversight.
These companies embarked on a massive building spree, constructing infrastructure and homes in earthquake hot spots without following proper building codes. In Hatay, one of the areas hardest hit by Monday’s quake, residential buildings, hospitals, and even the local branch of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), many built by Erdogan’s cronies, were either leveled to the ground or suffered massive damage. The town’s only airport runway, built on top of a fault line by a company closely tied to Erdogan, was split in two by the earthquake.
CPI 2022: Highlights and insights
180 countries. 180 scores. How does your country measure up in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index?
Countries with strong institutions and well-functioning democracies often find themselves at the top of the Index. Denmark heads the ranking, with a score of 90. Finland and New Zealand follow closely with a score of 87. Norway (84), Singapore (83), Sweden (83), Switzerland (82), the Netherlands (80), Germany (79), Ireland (77) and Luxembourg (77) complete the top 10 this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and growing security threats across the globe are fuelling a new wave of uncertainty. In an already unstable world, countries failing to address their corruption problems worsen the effects.
This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) reveals that 124 countries have stagnant corruption levels, while the number of countries in decline is increasing. This has the most serious consequences, as global peace is deteriorating and corruption is both a key cause and result of this.
Corruption and conflict feed each other and threaten durable peace. On one hand, conflict creates a breeding ground for corruption – political instability, increased pressure on resources and weakened oversight bodies create opportunities for crimes, such as bribery and embezzlement.
Unsurprisingly, most countries at the bottom of the CPI are currently experiencing armed conflict or have recently done so.
On the other hand, even in peaceful societies, corruption and impunity can spill over into violence by fuelling social grievances. And siphoning off resources needed by security agencies leaves states unable to protect the public and uphold the rule of law. Consequently, countries with higher levels of corruption are more likely to also exhibit higher levels of organised crime and increased security threats.
The U.S. says the Wagner Group is a transnational criminal organization. Here’s why
Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military company led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rogue millionaire with longtime links to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, first took to the battlefield during the Russian annexation of Crimea. But its operations have expanded considerably in the years since. Wagner fighters have appeared in conflict zones from Syria to Mali to Ukraine, and are notorious for the brutality of their tactics.
The U.S. Treasury Department this week designated the Wagner Group a significant transnational criminal organization — part of an effort to crack down on an entity responsible for a growing number of atrocities in Ukraine.
U.N. Official Fired in Investment Scandal
A second top United Nations official is out of a job following the disclosure that more than $20 million doled out in unconventional loans may be lost.
(NYT) The United Nations fired a senior official on Thursday after an internal investigation into a financial scandal that embarrassed the world organization and led to an overhaul of the agency that the official oversaw.
The official, Vitaly Vanshelboim, was the second U.N. figure to lose his job because of the scandal.
In May, a day after The New York Times published an article describing how the little-known agency had entrusted $61 million in loans and grant money to a single British family, [Grete Faremo of Norway,] the head of the agency stepped down at the request of the U.N. secretary general.
A Pot of U.N. Money. Risk-Taking Officials. A Sea of Questions.
A little-known United Nations agency decided to make an impact by doling out loans and grant money — all to a single family. It did not go well
Zelenskiy ramps up anti-corruption drive as 15 Ukrainian officials exit
Key officials have been dismissed or resigned since Saturday, with six facing corruption allegations
(The Guardian) A number of Ukrainian officials have been dismissed or resigned over the last four days amid corruption allegations as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, attempts to take a zero-tolerance approach to the issue.
Fifteen senior officials have left their posts since Saturday, six of whom have had corruption allegations levelled at them by journalists and Ukraine’s anti-corruption authorities.
The wave of changes started on Saturday when Ukraine’s deputy minister of infrastructure, Vasyl Lozinskyi, was detained by anti-corruption investigators and dismissed from his post. He was accused by prosecutors of inflating the price of winter equipment, including generators, and allegedly siphoning off $400,000. Investigators also found $38,000 in cash in his office.
After Lozinskyi’s detention, Zelenskiy vowed in his nightly address to take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, a problem that has plagued Ukraine since independence.
Former top Mexican official took millions in bribes from cartel, prosecutor says
Mexico’s former top law enforcement official Genaro Garcia Luna made millions moonlighting as an enabler for the Sinaloa Cartel even as he stood as a symbol of his country’s struggling war on the narcotics trafficking trade, prosecutors said at the start of his trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Pilmar said in his opening arguments to a jury Monday that under Garcia Luna’s watch, the cartel he collaborated with sent “literal tons” of cocaine to the United States, as “federal police acted as armed mercenaries to take out the enemies the cartel wanted removed.”
Former senior FBI official accused of working for Russian he investigated
Charles McGonigal, a former counterintelligence chief, is also accused of taking $225,000 from a former Albanian intelligence worker while still at the FBI
Current and former U.S. officials who know and have worked with McGonigal said they were shocked by the indictments. As a senior FBI counterintelligence official, McGonigal had access to an extraordinary amount of sensitive information, potentially including investigations of foreign spies or U.S. citizens suspected of working on behalf of foreign governments, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the work McGonigal did. One former official said McGonigal had worked with the CIA on counterintelligence matters.
Italy’s most-wanted Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro arrested in Sicily
(BBC) He is alleged to be a boss of the notorious Cosa Nostra Mafia and he was tried and sentenced to life in jail in absentia in 2002 over numerous murders.
The Mafia boss also oversaw racketeering, illegal waste dumping, money-laundering and drug-trafficking for the powerful Cosa Nostra organised crime syndicate.
He was reportedly the protege of Totò Riina, head of the Corleone clan, who was arrested in 1993 after 23 years on the run.
He is thought to be Cosa Nostra’s last “secret-keeper”. Many informers and prosecutors believe that he holds all the information and the names of those involved in several of the most high-profile crimes by the Mafia, including the bomb attacks that killed magistrates Falcone and Borsellino.
For years, Messina Denaro had been a symbol of the state’s inability to reach the upper echelons of the organised crime syndicates.
His arrest will be an unexpected sign of hope that the Mafia can be eradicated even in the southern regions of the country, where the state is perceived as largely absent and ineffective.
Arrest of ‘last godfather’ deals new blow to ailing Sicilian mafia
By Angelo Amante
Michael Young, editor of Diwan and a senior editor at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center.
Sicily’s onetime mafia order reached its highest state of perfection in Lebanon.
(Carnegie Middle East Center) What Sicily showed, and Lebanon would replicate and perfect, is that at the heart of successful criminal commonwealths is a pact between those who govern and those who commit crimes, so that the criminals take on certain responsibilities of the state, and the state relies on assistance from the criminals for what is legally prohibited. In Sicily, the mafia coordinated with representatives of those in power in Rome, securing votes in exchange for political favors. The Salvo cousins and Salvatore Lima were prominent beneficiaries of this perverted system.
In Lebanon, however, we approximate a more perfect criminal republic. Here, the ones committing the crimes are those actually in senior positions of authority. They have infiltrated all state bodies, the security and national defense institutions, the judiciary, educational establishments, even sporting federations. So perfect are their crimes, in fact, that many of their actions are not regarded as criminal by most people in society. The Lebanese will blandly mention the politicians’ “patronage networks,” but under any lawful political system plundering the state to bolster one’s own political fortunes would be considered illegal.
Wealth looms big as ever in post-scandal college admissions
In the wake of the college admissions bribery scandal, experts say there’s little evidence that it stirred significant change in the world of college admissions.
(AP) Celebrities wept in court. Coaches lost their jobs. Elite universities saw their reputations stained. And nearly four years later, the mastermind of the Varsity Blues scheme was sentenced this month to more than three years in prison.
But there’s little belief the college bribery scandal has stirred significant change in the admissions landscape. Some schools tweaked rules to prevent the most flagrant types of misconduct, but the outsize roles of wealth, class and race — which were thrust into public view in shocking plainness — loom as large as ever.
College admissions leaders say the case is an anomaly. Corrupt athletics officials abused holes in the system, they argue, but no college admissions officers were accused. Still, critics say the case revealed deeper, more troubling imbalances.
College scam mastermind Rick Singer gets 3.5 years in prison
(AP) — The mastermind of the nationwide college admissions bribery scheme that ensnared celebrities, prominent businesspeople and other parents who used their wealth and privilege to buy their kids’ way into top-tier schools was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Wednesday.
The punishment for Rick Singer, 62, is the longest sentence handed down in the sprawling scandal that embarrassed some of the nation’s most prestigious universities and put a spotlight on the secretive admissions system already seen as rigged in favor of the rich.
Convictions, prison time: A look at college admissions scam
(AP) — More than 50 people were convicted in the sprawling college admissions bribery scheme that embroiled elite universities across the country and landed a slew of prominent parents and athletic coaches behind bars.
The case dubbed Operation Varsity Blues by authorities revealed a scheme to get the children of rich parents into top-tier schools with fake athletic credentials and bogus entrance exam scores.
Report: Corruption and democracy in Asia
Thomas Pepinsky, Francis E. Hutchinson, Maria Ela L. Atienza, and Hyeok Yong Kwon
(Brookings) Democratic politics is about making government work for the people by giving citizens a voice in government and the ability to remove leaders from office. Corruption is the misuse of public office for private gain. When politicians use their office to enrich themselves or their political allies, they violate the public’s trust and undermine the legitimacy of their governments. Politicians in liberal democracies should be more resilient to corruption than their counterparts in authoritarian regimes are, but experiences in Asia show that the region’s democratic governments are by no means immune from corruption. As these papers on Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea reveal, corruption remains a central policy issue for democratic governments in Asia, and the politics of controlling corruption is central to understanding electoral politics and elite political maneuvering.
(Foreign Affairs) The European Parliament is engulfed in a corruption scandal, after news broke earlier this week that Qatar, the host of the World Cup, bribed key lawmakers for influence in Europe. Philip Zelikow and his co-authors argue (The Rise of Strategic Corruption – How States Weaponize Graft) that countries are weaponizing corruption to an unprecedented degree—and that democracies are especially vulnerable to this new form of political warfare.
What Will Viktor Bout Do Next?
(OCCRP) A day after his release, the former arms dealer appeared on Russian state television. … The newly freed Bout wasted no time in outlining his thoughts on politics. He voiced full support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine while mocking the decay of American civilization.
Monday, he made headlines again by joining the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. Allegedly, he also attended a meeting of a state committee on international affairs and spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Samuel Ramani, a Russia foreign policy expert affiliated with Oxford University, said Bout is a great strategic gain for the Kremlin – particularly in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Kremlin-linked paramilitary Wagner Group has been trying to garner political influence since 2019, although without much success. … Ramani suggested that Bout’s expertise could also be helpful in helping Russia evade tightening international sanctions and maintaining trade flows in the increasingly hostile international environment.
But Douglas Farah, a U.S. national security consultant and author of a book exposing Bout’s trafficking empire, thinks there is no way Bout can resume arms trafficking. …pointing out even before the fatal trip to Thailand, Bout’s empire was shrinking because of multiple international arrest warrants and Putin’s consolidation of power and he was mostly staying in Moscow, Farah indicated that Bout is much more likely to turn to politics instead.
A police stakeout, piles of cash, and a promise of reform: the week that shook Brussels
(The Guardian) The revelations, broken first by Belgian media, followed by a terse official statement, exploded like a thunderclap over the European parliament, which likes to boast of its role as the EU’s only directly-elected institution. It was like a crime novel, or a bad Netflix series, insiders said. MEPs and staff were stunned, angry, incredulous.
Privately, EU leaders fret — and plot — over Qatargate fallout
EU leaders recognize the potential political ramifications of a corruption probe in Brussels — but are also eyeing it as an election opportunity.
(Politico Eu) They’d come to talk policy — how to fix Europe’s competitiveness problem, how to keep gas prices stable.
Instead, the 27 politicians leading the EU’s countries couldn’t escape a topic they know better than anything else — politics. Specifically, the political fallout from the mushrooming corruption scandal embroiling the European Parliament ended up overshadowing discussion in Brussels at the final gathering of the year Thursday.
What does the corruption scandal mean for the EU?
Following Eva Kaili’s arrest, the EU Parliament has removed the suspended Vice President from office. Kaili is suspected of having accepted large sums of money from Qatar in exchange for influencing EU decisions. Belgian prosecutors have charged Kaili and several other suspects with corruption and forming a criminal organisation. Europe’s press debates the consequences.
What do we know about the European Parliament corruption scandal?
At least six individuals have been arrested by Belgian police following a “major investigation” into corruption, money laundering and criminal organisation.
Two of them have been released with or without conditions, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
One of the individuals is Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP who until Tuesday was one of 14 vice presidents of the European Parliament.
She is suspected of lobbying on behalf of a Gulf country, which was identified by media and some MEPs as Qatar, the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament.
The Qatari government denies involvement and the Belgian prosecutor’s office would not confirm the country’s name.
The timeline of Jared Kushner’s corruption is everything: biographer
Kushner is profiting off of his “work” he did at taxpayer expense and the relationships he built at taxpayer expense.
(Raw Story) Kushner Companies negotiated a bailout deal for 666 Fifth Avenue with the Qatari sovereign wealth fund. The moment came months after the Qatari government officials were staying in the Trump hotel in Washington on the same date as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who had a home in Washington at the time.
The House announced it would approach an investigation into Kushner and the Qatari purchase as well as Kushner’s billion-dollar investments he’s been able to scoop up from countries he was conducting foreign policy with during his father-in-law’s administration.
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez Under Federal Investigation
In New Jersey, a federal prosecutor has issued dozens of subpoenas in a wide-ranging criminal investigation involving several people including U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. That’s according to NBC News, which reports the investigation also involves a company that’s authorized by the government of Egypt to certify exports of Halal food worldwide. Menendez is a Democrat and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2017, prosecutors dropped corruption charges against him after a jury couldn’t agree on a verdict. In that case, Senator Menendez was accused of influence peddling on behalf of a New Jersey ophthalmologist in exchange for flights on a private jet, luxury hotel stays and six-figure campaign contributions
WHO Syria boss accused of corruption, fraud, abuse, AP finds
(AP) — Staffers at the World Health Organization’s Syrian office have alleged that their boss mismanaged millions of dollars, plied government officials with gifts — including computers, gold coins and cars — and acted frivolously as COVID-19 swept the country.
More than 100 confidential documents, messages and other materials obtained by The Associated Press show WHO officials told investigators that the agency’s Syria representative, Dr. Akjemal Magtymova, engaged in abusive behavior, pressured WHO staff to sign contracts with high-ranking Syrian government politicians and consistently misspent WHO and donor funds.
Complaints from at least a dozen personnel have triggered one of the biggest internal WHO probes in years, at times involving more than 20 investigators, according to staffers linked to the investigation.
The scandals and hypocrisy behind McKinsey’s sterling reputation
In their new book, investigative reporters Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe shatter the luminous image of McKinsey & Co. that has long attached to the consulting giant. Vault.com, a leading employment site, doesn’t exaggerate when it asserts that McKinsey “has achieved a near-universal level of renown.” …
A far different portrait emerges in Bogdanich and Forsythe’s “When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm.” The authors expose the firm’s unsavory work with fossil fuel companies, cigarette-makers, opioid distributors, regulatory agencies and autocratic regimes. In a masterful work of investigative journalism building on their reporting for the New York Times, Bogdanich and Forsythe pierce through McKinsey’s “culture of secrecy” — a process they describe as “akin to chasing shadows” — to unearth conflicts of interest, corruption, hypocrisy and strategic blunders that read like a prosecutor’s indictment.
When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm
Fat Leonard: Malaysian criminal in US Navy scandal recaptured after jail break
(BBC) A Malaysian businessman who scammed the US Navy in its biggest fraud scandal ever has been recaptured after he escaped house arrest two weeks ago.
Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard”, was captured in Venezuela attempting to board a flight to Russia.
Back story: US Navy officer ‘bribed by cash and prostitutes’
Spanish Police Dismantle Europe’s Largest Money Laundering Gang
(OCCRP) Spanish police arrested one of Europe’s biggest money launderers linked to an Irish criminal clan and dismantled the Spanish branch of his international network that used an ancient money exchange system to launder more than 200 million euro (US$199.26 million) in just over a year.
Law enforcement in several countries were looking for the organization’s commander in Spain, who is believed to be tied to the Irish Kinahan clan, according to a Thursday press release. He was arrested in Malaga on Monday.
Spanish Civil Guard launched an operation against the group in early 2021. The Spanish discovery indicated a widely spread international connection, which initiated an international operation.
‘Fat Leonard’ escapes weeks before sentencing in Navy bribery scandal
(WaPo) The Malaysian defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials with sex parties, fancy dinners and alcohol in a massive corruption scandal has escaped just weeks before his sentencing date.
Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard” for his overshadowing frame, fled Sunday while under house arrest in San Diego, where he was awaiting a Sept. 22 hearing. A multiagency search by the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force and Naval Criminal Investigative Service is underway, officials said.
Background: The man who seduced the 7th Fleet
his arrest exposed something else that is still emerging three years later: a staggering degree of corruption within the Navy itself.
He tempted his targets with the high life: whiskey, cigars, prostitutes and cash.
His moles fed him bundles of military secrets and law enforcement ﬁles.
All so he could rip off the Navy on an industrial scale for years and years.
Now, the depth of the corruption is being exposed as the investigation reaches into the highest ranks of the Navy.
New Details Revealed in ‘Fat Leonard’ Escape, Detention as Manhunt Continues
Inventing Anna: Ukrainian-Born Scammer Posed with Trump and Wandered Mar-a-Lago
Inna Yashchyshyn, a self-confessed grifter linked to a fraudulent charity, posed as a member of one of the world’s most famous banking families, gained access to Donald Trump’s Florida home, and mingled with top Republican
(OCCRP) Key Findings
Inna Yashchyshyn, alias Anna de Rothschild, was invited into Mar-a-Lago and posed as a member of the European banking dynasty.
Yashchyshyn is linked to a fake charity and other fraudulent ventures.
Her dealings are being investigated by law enforcement in both Canada and the U.S.
The revelations raise security concerns about how she was able to mix freely at Mar-a-Lago with the ex-president and other prominent political figures.
In the third of a series of interviews with the Queen Elizabeth II Academy faculty, Alex Cooley examines the challenges of reigning(sic) in kleptocratic networks.
Cracking down on kleptocracy
Kleptocracy literally means ‘rule by thieves’, and in contemporary usage refers to the plundering of economies and societies by political elites for their own personal gain.
(Chatham House) However, corrupt acts that may initially occur domestically are facilitated by a number of transnational actors and processes, many of them operating out of so-called ‘clean’ countries. At the end of the day, for a kleptocrat to profit from his or her stolen loot, they must store those funds where their value will be guaranteed by strong property rights protections. That means that the destination for kleptocrats is often the West, jurisdictions that enjoy rule of law, that have good financial services, and that guarantee privacy to client services.
…in the 1990s, as these institutions and tools of globalization proliferated, there was a chaotic economic transition underway in the former Soviet Union.
Economic transition in places like Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, transpired at the time of this financial deregulation, where there was a general perception that all capital account openness was good and that the international community assisted these countries with financial liberalization. The offshore dynamic is particularly pronounced in the post-Soviet countries because the state-building, regime consolidation, and reform of these economies coincided with this era of financial globalization.
Uber leveraged violent attacks against its drivers to pressure politicians
In push for global expansion, company officials saw clashes with taxi cab workers as a way to win public sympathy, a trove of new documents shows
(WaPo) … The text exchange is among more than 124,000 company documents that a former top Uber lobbyist, Mark MacGann, provided to the Guardian. The publication shared the emails, instant messages, company presentations and other records with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nonprofit newsroom in Washington that helped lead this project, and more than 40 other news organizations, including The Washington Post. The documents provide a vivid, insider account of how from 2013 to 2017, Uber used bare-knuckle tactics to expand rapidly around the globe as it became one of the most-used transportation companies on the planet. MacGann was Uber’s head of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from 2014 to 2016.
The company launched operations on four continents in rapid succession, often without seeking licenses to operate as a taxi and livery service, casting itself as merely a technology platform that connected willing passengers and drivers. To try to rewrite laws to recognize its position, Uber exported sophisticated American lobbying methods, the documents show, and it leveraged violence against its drivers in its efforts to win sympathy from regulators and the public.
UN sexual abuse claims ‘must be investigated’
By Sima Kotecha & Sarah Bell
(BBC News) Claims of sexual abuse and corruption at the United Nations should urgently be investigated by an independent panel, an ex-senior UN member has said.
Purna Sen’s comments follow a BBC investigation which revealed the sackings of a number of UN staff who tried to expose alleged wrongdoing.
The BBC documentary, The Whistleblowers: Inside the UN, details allegations of corruption, management turning a blind eye to wrongdoing and sexual abuse.
A very long report
How crypto giant Binance became a hub for hackers, fraudsters and drug traffickers
(A Reuters Special Report) With around 120 million users worldwide, Binance processes crypto trades worth hundreds of billions of dollars a month. The sector was hit by a sharp correction in May, its overall value slumping by a quarter to $1.3 trillion. [Binance CEO Changpeng] Zhao said he saw “new found resiliency” in the market.
The flow of illicit crypto through Binance, identified by Reuters, represents a small portion of the exchange’s overall trading volumes. Yet as policymakers and regulators, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, voice concern over the illegal use of cryptocurrencies, the trade demonstrates how criminals have turned to the technology to launder dirty money.
The Great Crypto Grift May Be Unwinding
As an inevitable crash occurs, many of the swindles and alleged swindles are coming to light.
(The New Yorker) Last week, federal prosecutors arrested a fifty-year-old Long Island man and accused him of defrauding hundreds of investors by offering them gains of five per cent per week—yes, per week—from a fictional crypto-trading platform. … the indictment came during what is increasingly looking like the unwinding of the great crypto “bezzle.” The term comes from John Kenneth Galbraith’s classic account of the 1929 stock-market crash, and it refers to the “inventory of undiscovered embezzlement” that builds up during speculative booms, when investors become ever more credulous and rising prices create the appearance that real wealth is being created. … It is only after the inevitable crash occurs that many of the swindles, and alleged swindles, come to light.
… The day before Alexandre’s arrest, Europol, the E.U.’s law-enforcement agency, placed Ruja Ignatova, the German inventor of the OneCoin cryptocurrency, on its most-wanted list, for “having induced investors all over the world to invest in this actually worthless ‘currency,’ ” which has produced a total loss that “probably amounts to several billion” dollars. Earlier this year, the F.B.I. arrested a New York couple and accused them of helping launder billions of dollars in stolen bitcoin.
Jacob Zuma sought to hand state assets to allies, finds corruption report
Inquiry says South Africa’s ruling ANC ‘should be ashamed’ by alleged efforts to steal vast sums
Jacob Zuma has been accused of systematic and “unlawful” efforts to give business allies control of billions of dollars worth of state assets, by the judge charged with investigating wrongdoing during the former president’s years in power in South Africa.
Raymond Zondo, who was appointed in 2018 to lead an inquiry into allegations of systematic corruption under Zuma’s rule, handed his latest report to the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Friday.
The 1,000-page document accuses businessmen brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta of being the beneficiaries of Zuma’s efforts to fire competent officials, intervene in management decisions, appoint compliant ministers and influence the award of contracts worth huge sums.
Russian bankers shuffled personal wealth offshore long before latest sanctions, Pandora Papers show
Amid rounds of Western sanctions since 2014, executives at five of Russia’s biggest financial institutions made moves to safeguard hundreds of millions in assets.
By Scilla Alecci
(ICIJ) These previously unreported moves included shifting assets just before or soon after Western nations sanctioned Russian elites and businesses. Some of these sanctions started in 2014 in response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. Others were added in response to Russia’s cyber activities, its meddling in the 2016 American presidential election and its continuing aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Three of the bankers, the leaked records show, used offshore shell companies to invest in luxury properties in London and Cyprus. Four others collaborated on offshore companies holding at least $2 billion.
The documents also show that Herman Gref — the chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank — used an offshore operative in Singapore in 2015 to restructure a $75 million family trust tied to a tangle of offshore companies.
Corporate Fraud & Corruption 2022
(Financierworldwide) Cases of corporate fraud and corruption have risen in recent years. While malicious actors have become more technologically advanced and bolder in their actions, the events of the last two years have greatly increased their opportunities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created new vulnerabilities for organisations of all sizes and industries. The rapid, chaotic scramble to open up remote, digital channels, coupled with reduced managerial oversight and governance, have exposed companies to fresh threats.
Removing Russia from the OECD Working Group on Bribery would be a mistake with unintended consequences
Nicola Bonucci and Regis Bismuth
(FCPA blog) On February 25, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) launched a procedure to suspend Russia from its rights of representation in the organization. Following that, on March 15, Russia informed the Secretary General of the CoE of its withdrawal from the organization and its intention to denounce the European Convention on Human Rights. The following day, the CoE’s Committee of Ministers decided that Russia ceased to be a member of the organization.
Indeed, following the exclusion from the COE, the European Court of Human Rights has decided to suspend the examination of all applications against the Russian Federation pending its consideration of the legal consequences of the Committee of Ministers’ decision for the work of the Court. This and Russia’s denunciation of the European Convention on Human Rights eventually means that persons under Russia’s jurisdiction will no longer be able to turn to the Court, the judicial arm of the Council of Europe, as a last resort after exhausting their country’s courts.
The same can be said about the Working Group on Bribery of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This Group was established to monitor the implementation and enforcement of the 1997 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and its related Recommendations. According to Transparency International, the Working Group’s monitoring mechanism is considered the “gold standard”.
The world at a standstill
This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) reveals that corruption levels are at a worldwide standstill.
The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The results are given on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
This year, the global average remains unchanged for the tenth year in a row, at just 43 out of a possible 100 points. Despite multiple commitments, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. Two-thirds of countries score below 50, indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.
As anti-corruption efforts stagnate worldwide, human rights and democracy are also under assault.
This is no coincidence. Our latest analysis shows that protecting human rights is crucial in the fight against corruption: countries with well-protected civil liberties generally score higher on the CPI, while countries who violate civil liberties tend to score lower.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has also been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms and side-step important checks and balances.
Terry Glavin: Canada’s rankings in the Corruption Perceptions Index have plummeted under Trudeau
There was no single scandal that caused Canada’s score to drop again this year, it’s just the accumulation of events, a kind of hangover effect from lingering embarrassments
Tackling corruption is our collective responsibility
Mouhamadou Diagne, World Bank Vice President of Integrity
(World Bank blogs) Corruption is a global problem and must be faced by equally global efforts and partnerships. If we are to have a collective impact, it is important that we also have common standards of practice for combatting corruption. It is timely then that next week (December 13-17, 2021), global anticorruption leaders will be meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the Ninth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. This event will help to improve our collective capacity and cooperation, as well as provide an opportunity to engage on the important anticorruption topics of today. I look forward to attending with the WBG’s delegation and to discussing how we can enhance the networks for international cooperation in tackling corruption, particularly in today’s uncertain times.
Our collective efforts in recent decades have shined a bright spotlight on the corrosive impacts of corruption. For our efforts to continue to be successful, we must ensure that anyone and everyone fulfill their right—and responsibility—to speak up against corruption.
A tax man went after Guatemala’s elites. Then they hit back.
A Guatemalan official prosecuted powerful countrymen for millions in unpaid taxes. Soon, he was fired, arrested and charged with serious crimes. Reuters examines the pushback against efforts to end the corruption and impunity forcing many Central Americans to migrate.
(Reuters) Many here celebrated him for tackling elites long used to getting away with evading taxes. Guatemala is one of the world’s poorest and most unequal countries, with the lowest tax take in Latin America as a percentage of the national economy. But the burly former prosecutor with a buzz cut and a boxer’s nose also made mighty enemies.
Foppa, as the 38-year-old is widely known, this year found himself behind bars, in a case that even his adversaries acknowledge was largely fabricated. His arrest, and 22-day jail stay, was part of an ongoing backlash against some of the leaders of an anti-corruption movement that for a time pioneered efforts to end graft and impunity for powerful elites in Central America.
Foppa’s predicament is part of a broader struggle afoot in Central America over efforts to end the widespread misrule that has destabilized the region and stoked an exodus that’s contributing to the migration crisis at the U.S. border.
Companies Linked to Russian Ransomware Hide in Plain Sight
When cybersleuths traced the millions of dollars American companies, hospitals and city governments have paid to online extortionists in ransom money, they made a telling discovery: At least some of it passed through one of the most prestigious business addresses in Moscow.
(NYT)That this high-rise in Moscow’s financial district has emerged as an apparent hub of such money laundering has convinced many security experts that the Russian authorities tolerate ransomware operators. The targets are almost exclusively outside Russia, they point out, and in at least one case documented in a U.S. sanctions announcement, the suspect was assisting a Russian espionage agency.
Cybercrime is just one of many issues fueling tensions between Russia and the United States, along with the Russian military buildup near Ukraine and a recent migrant crisis on the Belarus-Polish border.
The Treasury Department has estimated that Americans have paid $1.6 billion in ransoms since 2011. One Russian ransomware strain, Ryuk, made an estimated $162 million last year encrypting the computer systems of American hospitals during the pandemic and demanding fees to release the data, according to Chainalysis, a company tracking cryptocurrency transactions.
Corruption’s War on the Law
From Nigeria to Italy, the forces of corruption are fighting back against those who would root them out, and from bombs and bullets to writs and motions, they will use any weapon they can to improve their chances. Not content to intimidate or even murder their opponents, now they are targeting the rule of law itself.
(Project Syndicate) When you try to fight corruption, corruption fights back. Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia could tell you that – if she had not been murdered by associates of those she was investigating. Rwandan anti-corruption lawyer Gustave Makonene, who was strangled and thrown from a car, also can’t talk. Nor can Brazilian activist Marcelo Miguel D’Elia, who was shot multiple times in a sugarcane field near his home.
Police officers, prosecutors, and public officials have also faced severe consequences for trying to take on corruption. One such official is Ibrahim Magu, who became acting chairman of Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in 2015. In 2017, gunmen attacked Magu’s home, killing one of the policemen guarding it. But bullets were not what ultimately neutralized Magu. Instead, his removal from office was engineered through “lawfare” – the use (or abuse) of the law for political ends. Last year – at a time when the EFCC was reportedly probing corruption allegations against Attorney-General Abubakar Malami – Magu was arrested and detained over allegations of corruption and insubordination, leveled by none other than Malami.
2016 Rio Olympics chief sentenced to 30 years in prison for buying votes to secure Games
By Mauricio Savarese
(AP/Global) Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee for more than two decades, was sentenced to 30 years and 11 months in jail for allegedly buying votes for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics. Nuzman, who also headed the Rio 2016 organizing committee, was found guilty of corruption, criminal organization, money laundering and tax evasion. The 79-year-old executive won’t be jailed until all his appeals are heard.
Judge Marcelo Bretas also sentenced to jail former Rio Gov. Sergio Cabral, businessman Arthur Soares and Leonardo Gryner, who was the Rio 2016 committee director-general of operations. Investigators say all three and Nuzman coordinated to bribe the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, and his son Papa Diack for votes.
The Bad Guys Are Winning
If the 20th century was the story of slow, uneven progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies—communism, fascism, virulent nationalism—the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse.
By Anne Applebaum
That’s the subject of my Atlantic cover story this month: the new autocrats, the links they share, the impunity they enjoy, the world they have created. It’s a world in which ideology no longer matters, where Iranian theocrats work happily alongside Russian nationalists and Chinese Communists. Sometimes, the welfare of their fellow citizens doesn’t matter either. This generation of autocrats is focused on money—their own money—and on retaining power at all costs. Modern autocratic elites will do what it takes to stay in control, even if it leads to the destruction of their countries, as it has already in Venezuela and in Syria, and perhaps will soon in Belarus.
Nowadays, autocracies are run not by one bad guy but by networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services, and professional propagandists. The members of these networks are connected not only within a given country but among many countries. The corrupt, state-controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with their counterparts in another. The police forces in one country can arm, equip, and train the police forces in another. The propagandists share resources—the troll farms that promote one dictator’s propaganda can also be used to promote the propaganda of another—and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.