Resources and commitment needed to combat kleptocracy


Credit: NY Times

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit seeking to recover assets that include a $50 million Manhattan apartment and an $80 million yacht that it said were bought using money generated from a scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to a former Nigerian oil minister, Reuters reports:

The U.S. Justice Department on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking to recover assets that include a $50 million Manhattan apartment and an $80 million yacht that it said were bought using money generated from a scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to a former Nigerian oil minister. The civil lawsuit, filed in federal court in Houston, alleged that two Nigerian businessmen conspired with others to pay bribes to the minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who oversaw the African country’s state-owned oil company.

The lawsuit was brought as part of Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which seeks the forfeiture of the proceeds of foreign corruption.

Bell Pottinger, the London-headquartered public relations firm at the center of the Gupta-Zuma strategy to capture state assets, has played a key role in pushing South Africa to the edge of a precipice, notes Zohra Dawood of the  FW de Klerk Foundation’s Centre for Unity in Diversity:

In this concise assessment of the activities of Bell Pottinger in South Africa, she explains why Bell Pottinger has become a swear word for many South Africans and synonymous with corruption. Dawood highlights that a new struggle is essential in order to save South Africa from the jaws of kleptocracy.

Nigeria and South Africa are two cases where the US should be investing greater resources and commitment in combatting kleptocracy, according to Council on Foreign Relations analysts John Campbell and Allen Grane.

Anti-corruption campaigners are also calling for renewed scrutiny of the riches that flowed from the former Soviet Union after a fixer for a Kazakh family accused of pumping dirty money into US property agreed to assist an international investigation into his former business partners. The FT’s Tom Burgis writes. In October the Financial Times revealed that Felix Sater, a Russian-born dealmaker with organised-crime connections, had helped the family of Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakh minister now exiled in Switzerland, invest millions in US real estate through front companies.

The U.S. vows to promote financial transparency, yet it will let just about anyone register an anonymous shell company, notes analyst Casey Michel. When Viktor Bout—the arms dealer extraordinaire who inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie Lord of War—sought to set up anonymous shell companies, according to a Senate panel, he turned to, of all places, the U.S., he writes for The Atlantic:

So too, court documents indicate, did former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, a man who has landed on Transparency International’s list of the 10 most corrupt officials. Per a Senate report, the same was true of the accused kleptocrat Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, who went on to forfeit more than $30 million worth of mansions and sports cars to American officials (but somehow managed to hold onto Michael Jackson’s crystal-studded glove).

“Recently proposed legislation, if passed, would force the disclosure of beneficial owners planting their companies on American soil,” Michel adds. “Of course, if such legislation becomes law, the companies might just go elsewhere. But enlisting the earnest efforts of the biggest economy in the world would be an important step in the right direction.”

Kremlin kleptocrats

“Just as gangsters cannot expect to use the global financial system to launder cash, the kleptocrats of the Kremlin should not be able to use it to launder assets,” The Economist’s Edward Lucas wrote in The New Cold War.

A forthcoming briefing – Kleptocrats of the Kremlin: Ties Between Business and Power in Russia – will examine the dynamics of Putin’s closest circle in order to establish who most strengthens and benefits from his rule. Additionally, briefers will analyze how these cronies advance Putin’s geopolitical goals and interests.

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Thursday, July 20, 3:30 p.m. G11 Dirksen Bldg., Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.


  • Brian Whitmore, Senior Russia Analyst, Radio Free Europe
  • Ilya Zaslavskiy, Research Expert, Free Russia Foundation
  • Dr. Anders Aslund, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
  • Marius Laurinavicius, Senior Analyst, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis
  • Ambassador Daniel Fried, Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council

Systemic corruption impedes market development, hurts business growth, and erodes the rule of law, says the Center for International Private Enterprise. Prevalent corruption can render a populace susceptible to demagogic political appeals, and de-legitimizes political leadership. In economic terms, corruption diverts investments and distorts markets – with the poor bearing the brunt of the negative economic impact.

This CIPE event – The Impact of Corruption on New Democracies in Asia – will explore current challenges and analysis related to corruption in new democracies in Asia. The panel discussion will feature an Afghanistan specialist, an expert on global kleptocracy, and a prominent civil society leader in Cambodia.

Thursday, July 20th. 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.

1211 Connecticut Ave NW., Suite 700, Washington, DC RSVP


Thida Khus, Executive Director, SILAKA, Cambodia

Charles Davidson, Executive Director, Kleptocracy Initiative, Hudson Institute

Jennifer Anderson, Senior Program Officer, South Asia, Center for International Private Enterprise

John Morrell, Regional Director for Asia, Center for International Private Enterprise (discussion moderator) 

On July 18, Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative and the Partnership for Transparency’s Anti-Corruption Forum held a discussion on U.S. government approaches to kleptocracy and money laundering, including investigations, prosecutions, compliance, and possible legislation

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