Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World


A tough read filled with schemes and twists, a torrent of money laundering, murder ordered from the top, and (for me) difficult-to-pronounce names. Kleptopia (2020), by Tom Burgis, is a dark but briskly told tale about the world's biggest thieves and the flow of riches they loot, with a focus on Washington, Moscow, Kazakhstan, Swiss banks, London, and the Congo. Exhaustively researched, the myriad stories Burgis unfolds, many crossing over others, are centered around a bunch of powerful crooks who the author sees (and is able to see) as key players in the dirty money game, along with some of their enablers. I liked it, but keeping track of who's who was hard, and I was left feeling rather helpless in the grand scheme of things, not to mention overwhelmed.



Excerpt from Kleptopia (Tom Burgis):


“The Nats, they declare themselves the saviours of besieged nations while overseeing the plunder of those nations. Drain the swamp, they cry, as they luxuriate in it. They have taken hold in central Europe, eastern Europe and Russia, with imitators on every continent: Bolsonaro in Brazil, Duterte in the Philippines, Erdoğan in Turkey, Netanyahu in Israel, Maduro in Venezuela, Trump in Washington. Left and Right: these are just their costumes. The mafia would admire the loyalty they inspire: at the Donald’s impeachment trial for his Ukrainian favour-trading, Republican senators listened to cast-iron evidence that he had abused his office, then acquitted him. Those who resist them believe that, once they are gone, the institutions they have distorted will snap back to how they were. But like a parasite altering a cell it invades, so kleptocratic power transforms its host. Those who use their public office to steal must hold on to it not just for the chance of further riches but in order to maintain the immunity from prosecution that goes with it. When elections come around, losing is not an option.”