Kleptocracy Weekly: September 1, 2017

Kleptocracy Weekly is KI’s round-up of news and features on how globalized corruption threatens democracy, compiled by Nate Sibley.

Anonymous Companies

“It is difficult to imagine: A rogue nation chose to evade sanctions not by hiding money in North Korea or China or Russia but in the United States. And they did so in our home state of New York…” Reps. Maloney and King on their bipartisan effort to tackle anonymous shell companies. E.J. Fagan and Michael Findley, co-author of Global Shell Games, agree: “We undermine our own interests by making it harder to enforce sanctions…” (NY Daily News, Austin American Statesman)

After an unexpected visit from the fraud police, an “average guy from Inverness” found that his modest home had been used as the registered address of 600 Scottish Limited Partnerships, the UK’s “home-grown secrecy vehicle.” (Herald Scotland)

Lobbyists

Much of Paul Manafort’s work for controversial overseas clients had a common theme: Oleg Deripaska’s backing. Manafort reportedly used prominent DC lobbyists to help polish the image of Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort appears to still be putting together “major real estate deals with a motley crew from across the globe,” with the help of a talented fixer. (WSJ, Daily Beast, Real Deal)

A Florida lobbying firm was hired by a Turkish government-controlled bank implicated in an Iranian money laundering scheme. (Daily Caller)

China

Facing tough love from traditional allies, Greece and other struggling countries are embracing China’s cash and influence. (NYT)

Chinese authorities accused a corruption whistleblower of rape in an attempt to have him extradited from the U.S. (AP/WaPo)

The U.S. is probing Chinese oil giant Sinopec over Nigerian bribery allegations. A New York court sentenced a former Guinean minister to seven years’ imprisonment for accepting bribes from a Chinese conglomerate. (Reuters)

A Chinese entrepreneur allegedly helped North Korea acquire nuclear weapons parts. Japan joined the U.S. in sanctioning Chinese and Namibian firms. The U.S. search for financial leverage “may end on the doorsteps of China’s biggest oil companies and banks.” (WaPo, Japan Times, Bloomberg)

Russia

Putin may have seen the Panama Papers as a personal attack and wanted revenge, according to two Russian authors. Alexey Navalny alleges that Putin owns a secret dacha island on the Finnish border. A foundation created by the president’s alleged daughter has received a warning for violating NGO laws. (WaPo, RFE/RL, Meduza)

The Trump Organization reportedly pursued plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while Trump himself was running for president. (WaPo)

Europe

Ukraine’s leadership is “getting to be as corrupt, self-dealing, and nakedly authoritarian as the one uprooted by the Maidan protests,” says Sean Keeley, and “Western willingness to launder oligarchs’ money and whitewash their reputations allows the current system to flourish.” (American Interest)

Rather than strengthening Ukraine’s defenses, $1.5 billion in assets confiscated from Yanukovych after Maidan reportedly ended up as agrosubsidies for oligarchs. (Kyiv Post)

An Oxford University professor quit his post after a controversial donor of Russian origin also gave money to the Trump campaign. (Guardian)

Oceania

Australian universities are bowing to the political sensibilities of their Chinese students; they have become a frontline in Beijing’s ideological warfare, says John Garnaut (Quartz, AFR)

Troubles are mounting for Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which faces international scrutiny and billion-dollar fines over offshore transactions and money laundering. (Reuters)

South Asia

According to India’s central bank, a controversial attempt to purge “black money” from the economy by removing high-value bank notes has largely failed. (FT)