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The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management: On the International Campaign Against Grand Corruption

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An unprecedented new international moral and legal rule forbids one state from hosting money stolen by the leaders of another state. The aim is to counter grand corruption or kleptocracy (rule by thieves), when leaders of poorer countries--such as Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, and more recently those overthrown in revolutions in the Arab world and Ukraine An unprecedented new international moral and legal rule forbids one state from hosting money stolen by the leaders of another state. The aim is to counter grand corruption or kleptocracy (rule by thieves), when leaders of poorer countries--such as Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, and more recently those overthrown in revolutions in the Arab world and Ukraine--loot billions of dollars at the expense of their own citizens. This money tends to end up hosted in rich countries. These host states now have a duty to block, trace, freeze, and seize these illicit funds and hand them back to the countries from which they were stolen. In The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management, J. C. Sharman asks how this anti-kleptocracy regime came about, how well it is working, and how it could work better. Although there have been some real achievements, the international campaign against grand corruption has run into major obstacles. The vested interests of banks, lawyers, and even law enforcement often favor turning a blind eye to foreign corruption proceeds. Recovering and returning looted assets is a long, complicated, and expensive process. Sharman used a private investigator, participated in and observed anti-corruption policy, and conducted more than a hundred interviews with key players. He also draws on various journalistic expos�s, whistle-blower accounts, and government investigations to inform his comparison of the anti-kleptocracy records of the United States, Britain, Switzerland, and Australia. Sharman calls for better policing, preventative measures, and use of gatekeepers like bankers, lawyers, and real estate agents. He also recommends giving nongovernmental organizations and for-profit firms more scope to independently investigate corruption and seize stolen assets. --I. Walter, New York University "Australian Institute of International Affairs"


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An unprecedented new international moral and legal rule forbids one state from hosting money stolen by the leaders of another state. The aim is to counter grand corruption or kleptocracy (rule by thieves), when leaders of poorer countries--such as Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, and more recently those overthrown in revolutions in the Arab world and Ukraine An unprecedented new international moral and legal rule forbids one state from hosting money stolen by the leaders of another state. The aim is to counter grand corruption or kleptocracy (rule by thieves), when leaders of poorer countries--such as Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, and more recently those overthrown in revolutions in the Arab world and Ukraine--loot billions of dollars at the expense of their own citizens. This money tends to end up hosted in rich countries. These host states now have a duty to block, trace, freeze, and seize these illicit funds and hand them back to the countries from which they were stolen. In The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management, J. C. Sharman asks how this anti-kleptocracy regime came about, how well it is working, and how it could work better. Although there have been some real achievements, the international campaign against grand corruption has run into major obstacles. The vested interests of banks, lawyers, and even law enforcement often favor turning a blind eye to foreign corruption proceeds. Recovering and returning looted assets is a long, complicated, and expensive process. Sharman used a private investigator, participated in and observed anti-corruption policy, and conducted more than a hundred interviews with key players. He also draws on various journalistic expos�s, whistle-blower accounts, and government investigations to inform his comparison of the anti-kleptocracy records of the United States, Britain, Switzerland, and Australia. Sharman calls for better policing, preventative measures, and use of gatekeepers like bankers, lawyers, and real estate agents. He also recommends giving nongovernmental organizations and for-profit firms more scope to independently investigate corruption and seize stolen assets. --I. Walter, New York University "Australian Institute of International Affairs"

41 review for The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management: On the International Campaign Against Grand Corruption

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    Despite this book’s flashy and awesome title, it is not a rundown of the practices of corrupt third world dictatorships. While there are some shocking case studies (the wife of Nigerian strongman Sani Abacha was once detained at Lagos airport with 40 suitcases stuffed with cash) it is mainly a study of how the money leaves these underdeveloped countries, how it more often than not ends up in major financial centers such as The U.K., Australia, America, and Switzerland, and the effectiveness or Despite this book’s flashy and awesome title, it is not a rundown of the practices of corrupt third world dictatorships. While there are some shocking case studies (the wife of Nigerian strongman Sani Abacha was once detained at Lagos airport with 40 suitcases stuffed with cash) it is mainly a study of how the money leaves these underdeveloped countries, how it more often than not ends up in major financial centers such as The U.K., Australia, America, and Switzerland, and the effectiveness or lack thereof of measures to combat it. I learned quite a bit from this book but my main takeaway was that while some countries like The U.K., Switzerland, and America have been increasingly attempting to repatriate stolen wealth back to their countries of origin and should be applauded for it, they face several significant issues. One being that in order to initiate proceedings, they need the victim country to cooperate. In many cases, even after the person who absconded with most of the money is no longer in power or even dead, this cooperation is not forthcoming. Even if the victim country cooperates, there is a significant fear that the repatriated money will be stolen again by the new regime. Perhaps even more importantly, the host countries for this wealth need to be more vigilant about allowing the money into their countries in the first place. As things stand now, it is shockingly easy and financially profitable for real estate agents, bankers, or lawyers to turn a blind eye to foreign clients that attempt to stash stolen wealth with them. Since the legal repercussions are rarely exercised and the monetary gain is so great, it’s perhaps unsurprising that very little of this money is cut off at the entry point. The author illustrates through numerous well documented examples that while major financial centres are increasingly cracking down on dirty money from dictatorships, there is still a significant way to go.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    At the end of the Cold War, the tolerance for shady client states started to evaporate, revealing that leaders like the Bongos and Mobutu had strategically placed their loot in countries with strong rule of law and respect for property rights--i.e., exactly those nation which now wanted "good governance" and wondered why places with oil, cobalt and diamonds had such poor people. Sharman examines the change in tolerance, as well as the attempts to freeze and reclaim assets through programs like t At the end of the Cold War, the tolerance for shady client states started to evaporate, revealing that leaders like the Bongos and Mobutu had strategically placed their loot in countries with strong rule of law and respect for property rights--i.e., exactly those nation which now wanted "good governance" and wondered why places with oil, cobalt and diamonds had such poor people. Sharman examines the change in tolerance, as well as the attempts to freeze and reclaim assets through programs like the UN's StAR office, as well as the cold shoulder most receive. The realities of kleptocracy are new to Americans, but long-familiar to almost everyone else.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    This review on Amazon says it well: Sharman is not the easiest author to read. He is laborious, constantly telling readers what he is about to say in the next few paragraphs and telling them that he has already mentioned some fact or person several times in previous paragraphs or chapters. Getting to the point is not a priority of his. But the basic investigative facts are impressive and revealing.So, don't read this book for juicy details about the wretched excess of the most reprehensible peop This review on Amazon says it well: Sharman is not the easiest author to read. He is laborious, constantly telling readers what he is about to say in the next few paragraphs and telling them that he has already mentioned some fact or person several times in previous paragraphs or chapters. Getting to the point is not a priority of his. But the basic investigative facts are impressive and revealing.So, don't read this book for juicy details about the wretched excess of the most reprehensible people in the world, but do read it for the nuts-and-bolts of corruption. Since, sadly, I have never been in close enough proximity to truly interesting sums of money to gain first hand knowledge, I have idly wondered – how does grand corruption work? “Good morning, I'd like to deposit this suitcase full of blood-stained dollars.” “Certainly sir, right this way...” Well, not quite like that, but not completely different either. All you really need is a relatively small number of people with a completely busted moral compass and no qualms about claiming to be an idiot if that what it takes to keep everybody out of jail. For example, if you work for an Australian bank and you blithely passed on an electronic bank transfer that was annotated (I am not making this up, see Kindle location 2925) “This is for jihad, [very bad word]!”, all you have to do, apparently, to escape time in the slammer is to insist with a straight face that you didn't know what “jihad” meant. On the other hand, to stop or slow the flow of dirty money, or to extract the proceeds of evil activity from the claws of the heinous, you apparently need a large number of lawyers who are willing to forgo better-paying and less-frustrating jobs available in virtually every other type of lawyerly practice in favor of doing the right thing by powerless strangers who will never, ever, be able to advance a career. Surprisingly, such people seem to exist in large enough numbers to keep the asset recovery business chugging along nicely. This is encouraging because, as the author notes, what the world needs now is not more laws about this matter but somebody doing the unrewarding grunt work of enforcing and implementing the laws that are there already. There's a lot of interesting information connected with this book on the 'net. I first read about it in The Economist magazine here. The Diplomat web site has a review here which concentrates on Australia's sad record as a financial haven for the corrupt. Sharman also details Australia's shortcomings in YouTube videos here and here. I received an free unfinished galley of the ebook for review. Thank you to Netgalley and Cornell University Press for their generosity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I have never understood how some leader of a country can steal so blatantly from their own people, then, when ousted, take their ill gotten gains and move to another country with total impunity! How does the host country allow this scam?! The money ought to be returned from whence it came! Those host countries are abetting criminals! Disgraceful. Very good read. Well written and great research. I received a Kindle ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jacktastic

    Good look at the subject area, but dry.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nikunj

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sim

  9. 4 out of 5

    Luaba

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael Sternbach

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marlena

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    Well researched, a little on the dry side, but lots of interesting shenanigans and anecdotes about previous despots and tales of their corruption to spice up the more academic recounting of forensic legal and policy battles to identify and recover Grand Corruption.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ivank

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Krieger

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maia

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenazepol

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Lobov

  21. 5 out of 5

    Winnie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ciprian

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Timmer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tony

  25. 4 out of 5

    Phil C

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tarecq

  27. 5 out of 5

    Augustine

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Boyd

  29. 4 out of 5

    Justin Lashley

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amadeusz Kępiński

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ron Toland

  32. 4 out of 5

    Ng Yihang

  33. 4 out of 5

    Mihai

  34. 4 out of 5

    Will Gresiak

  35. 5 out of 5

    Xavier

  36. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  37. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  38. 5 out of 5

    Lance

  39. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  40. 5 out of 5

    D1 SKCHDB

  41. 4 out of 5

    Jamison H

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