Londongrad – Butler to the World?


Vladimir Putin’s savage attack on Ukraine has brutally brought to the fore the phenomenon known as “Londongrad”. The warm home the British establishment and its financial system provide for dirty money from the post-Soviet sphere and elsewhere may finally begin to be seen as the embarrassment — and worse — that it constitutes, The FT’s Martin Sandbu writes in a review of three new books* on the threat of kleptocracy:

The attack on Ukraine shows America’s and Britain’s enabling industries (though they are not alone) are plainly international security risks. It is mind-numbing that it should take war in Europe to make politicians aware of this. All the more credit to writers who keep lifting the veil on the unseemly parts of the financial services industry and urging us all not to avert our eyes…. Oliver Bullough’s Butler to the World bulges with stories of how past or remaining outposts of the empire, from the British Virgin Islands to Gibraltar, reinvented themselves as places to secrete away money or escape onerous rules. RTWT

In his recent essay for the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum – “An Offshore Cold War: Forging a Democratic Alliance to Combat Transnational Kleptocracy,” Bullough stresses that while today’s tyrants “are willing and able to do anything to expand their own power,” unlike during the Cold War, “democracies are no longer facing autocracies across well-defended national borders.”

In a 2009 essay on Russia’s “Selective Capitalism and Kleptocracy“? political analyst Daniel Kimmage wrote: “The primary goal of the Russian elite is not to advance an abstract ideal of the national interest or restore some imagined Soviet idyll.” Rather, he added, its goal is “to retain its hold on money and power,” notes Christopher Walker, the NED’s vice president for studies and analysis. This clear-eyed assessment of Putin’s Russia is even more relevant today than when it was originally published. So, what should free societies have learned since its publication, he asks in American Purpose.

*Butler to the World: How Britain Became the Servant of Tycoons, Tax Dodgers, Kleptocrats and Criminals by Oliver Bullough, Profile, £20, 288 pages

American Kleptocracy: How the US Created the World’s Greatest Money Laundering Scheme in History by Casey Michel, St Martin’s Press, $29.99/ Scribe UK, £18.99, 368 pages

The Enablers: How the West Supports Kleptocrats and Corruption — Endangering Our Democracy by Frank Vogl,

Print Friendly, PDF & Email