Day: December 23, 2020

Background Briefing: December 23, 2020

A Look Back on Corruption in 2020


Have We Become a Family-Run Banana Republic?

We continue to look back on the stories that dominated the headlines in this tumultuous year of 2020 which is coming to a close. Following Trump’s pardons yesterday of four Blackwater mercenary war criminals and three corrupt Republican congressmen, we begin with a broadcast from May 6 on the issue that will define the Trump administration in the history books, corruption, and look into the cracks of sunlight shedding light on the hidden corruption inside the Trump administration. Sarah Chayes who covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR and has studied corruption in the third world which she wrote about in Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, whose forthcoming book is On Corruption in America and What is at Stake, joined us to discuss her article at The Atlantic “Look Out, Corruption Ahead: As the country mobilizes resources to address the pandemic, politicians and corporations may attempt to exploit the crisis to enrich themselves. We discussed how Mnuchin and Kushner, who are in charge of directing the trillions of taxpayer money flying out the door, come from the sociopathic world of vulture capitalism and as they throw money at their friends on Wall Street, 33 million unemployed Americans wait in line for unemployment checks which have yet to arrive. With the United States more and more resembling a family-run banana republic, will the American people demand that their government take care of them instead of Trump and his cronies, since as Sarah Chayes points out, crises are opportunities and the outcomes depend on who seizes them?


We Should Blame Politicians Who Accept Dirty Money More Than the Kleptocrats Who Bribe Them

Then we go to an interview from September 23rd which took us to the U.K. to discuss the fallout from the leaked FinCEN SARs, Suspicious Activities Reports implicating major banks in particular in the U.K.  British companies were named in the SARs reports made public by Buzzfeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists more than 3,000 times, more than any other country, describing the U.K. as “a higher risk jurisdiction” than notorious dirty money laundromats like Cyprus. We spoke with Oliver Bullough, a journalist and author whose latest book is Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World and How to Take it Back. He joined us to discuss his article at, Oligarchy, Special Edition: Blame politicians, not banks, for the FinCEN mess” and explained why financial investigators who process the SARs, Suspicious Activities Reports, are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them, and given that the reports are sent in from the banks themselves who facilitate money-laundering, very few prosecutions result. Oliver does not blame those who bribe politicians with dirty money as much as the politicians themselves who accept kleptocratic money often stolen from the poorest countries.


An FT Investigative Journalist on His New Book, Kleptopia: How Dirty Money is Conquering the World

Then finally we go to an interview from Oct 15, 2020  with the Financial Times’s Investigative Journalist about his new book, Kleptopia: How Dirty Money is Conquering the World. Tom Burgis, an investigative journalist for The Financial Times where he was previously the paper’s West Africa correspondent, experiences he wrote about in his book The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers and the Theft of Africa’s Wealth, joined us.