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Home Uncategorized The Thieves’ International

The Thieves’ International

Sean Byrne
Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Rule the World and How to Take it Back, by Oliver Bullough, Profile Books, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1781257937 In his most poetic lyric “It’s Alright Ma”, Bob Dylan wrote that “money doesn’t talk, it swears obscenity”. That phrase summarises much of what Oliver Bullough narrates in Moneyland. Bullough details how kleptocrats in Russia, Ukraine, Africa and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia loot their countries’ treasuries and natural resources and, with the enthusiastic co-operation of financial institutions and lawyers in the developed countries, hide their ill-gotten wealth. The opening chapter, “Aladdin’s Cave”, describes the vast palace which Victor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014, built for himself on the proceeds of corruption. After Yanukovich fled to Russia, his palace was opened to the public, who saw a kitsch paradise with fountains, waterfalls, peacocks, a zoo, collections of weapons, portraits of Yanukovich in amber and, most ironically, a steel hammer and sickle which was a present from the Ukrainian communist party to Joseph Stalin. Yanukovich had come to power by accusing his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, of corruption as she had become the richest woman in Ukraine when she controlled its gas industry. Yanukovich’s election was orchestrated by Paul Manafort, who was chairman of Donald Trump’s election campaign and who is now serving a prison sentence for multiple crimes, having been prosecuted as a result of Robert Mueller’s investigations. Yanukovich had to get himself elected in order to loot his country’s wealth but the African kleptocrats Teodorin Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea, and Ali Bongo of Gabon were gifted their presidencies by their fathers and continued their fathers’ successful policies of stealing their country’s natural resources and plunging their impoverished people’s into deeper poverty. As Bongo became one of the richest men in the world, Gabon’s infant mortality rose to one of the highest in the world. (Bongo’s father, Omar, gave large sums of money to fund the election of Jacques Chirac who showed his appreciation by increasing French aid to Gabon, some of which was used to buy a private jet for Bongo Senior). Both Bongo and Obiang were supported in their theft by a phalanx of Western lawyers and financial advisers. Bullough argues that the indices of corruption which place European countries including the UK and Luxembourg, near the (virtuous) top while Uzbekistan and South Sudan are at the bottom are…

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