Podcast | Expert Opinions: Researching kleptocracy in Eurasia

In the lat­est episode of Expert Opinions — Russia, Eurasia, a pod­cast from the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, Masha Udensiva-Brenner inter­views anti-cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tor Thomas Mayne about klep­toc­ra­cy and what it means for democ­ra­cies all over the world.


Intro: Today you’ll hear from Thomas Mayne, a research fel­low at the University of Exeter who’s been involved in glob­al anti­cor­rup­tion work for near­ly two decades. At Exeter, he’s inves­ti­gat­ing mon­ey laun­der­ing through real estate, but for a long time he was respon­si­ble for Eurasian inves­ti­ga­tions at the NGO Global Witness.

In this episode, Tom and I are going to talk about klep­toc­ra­cy, a top­ic that affects all of us more than some might think, and one that we’ve explored quite a bit at the Harriman Institute. Tom has part­nered with us on some of our klep­toc­ra­cy-relat­ed events and has a coau­thored arti­cle forth­com­ing in Harriman Magazine on the topic.

Masha Udensiva-Brenner: Hi, Tom, how are you?

Thomas Mayne: Yeah, good. Thanks.

Udensiva-Brenner: I’m glad to have you on the show. Thank you for join­ing us.

Mayne: No problem.

Udensiva-Brenner: So, I want­ed to start with the basics. Just in case some of our lis­ten­ers are not famil­iar with the term, what is a kleptocracy?

Mayne: Well, I think prob­a­bly we used to call it grand cor­rup­tion, cor­rup­tion that is per­pe­trat­ed at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment and that requires some kind of sub­ver­sion of the polit­i­cal and legal sys­tems. I’d prob­a­bly say that a klep­toc­ra­cy is sys­temic grand cor­rup­tion which affects all lay­ers of polit­i­cal soci­ety in a par­tic­u­lar coun­try. If you want a very short expla­na­tion, it’s rule by theft. That’s what it lit­er­al­ly means.

Udensiva-Brenner: Can you give some exam­ples of coun­tries that are klep­toc­ra­cies, and some of the coun­tries you’ve worked on the most?

Mayne: Well, I think one of my favorite — if you can call it a favorite — exam­ples of a klep­toc­ra­cy is Kazakhstan. I think when you talk about klep­toc­ra­cy, it’s impor­tant to say what it isn’t: It does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean chaos. It does­n’t mean that all the peo­ple are poor. It does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that the coun­try isn’t in some respects well-run. And I think Kazakhstan is a good exam­ple of this. On the face of it, it looks like it’s doing quite well, espe­cial­ly in com­par­i­son to its neigh­bors. We have Kazakh com­pa­nies a decade or so ago list­ing on the London stock exchange, for exam­ple. But when you actu­al­ly look at the details and who’s con­trol­ling the wealth and the pow­er, it’s real­ly a very small group of peo­ple. Literally 162 indi­vid­u­als own­ing half the wealth in Kazakhstan and all those peo­ple are kind of relat­ed to each oth­er. So, it’s a very close-knit com­mu­ni­ty of polit­i­cal fig­ures who don’t let any com­peti­tors con­trol any of the major rev­enue streams in the country.

Udensiva-Brenner: And you men­tioned that klep­toc­ra­cy does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean chaos. It does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean pover­ty. So how does this affect reg­u­lar peo­ple and how are they able then to stay out of pover­ty if so few peo­ple con­trol all the wealth?

Mayne: I think Kazakhstan, because it has so much oil, it’s actu­al­ly been quite clever in allow­ing a cer­tain amount of mon­ey to flow down to a nascent mid­dle-class. And this is real­ly to pre­vent the peo­ple from rebelling like we have seen in the Kyrgyz Republic, for exam­ple, which has had three rev­o­lu­tions in the space of about 15, 16 years

But, the sit­u­a­tion, for exam­ple, in Turkmenistan, is very dif­fer­ent. Here, we’re talk­ing about North Korean lev­els of oppres­sion and a very poor pop­u­lace. And it should­n’t be that way. The coun­try only has 5 mil­lion peo­ple. It has the fourth largest gas reserves in the world. So, some coun­tries do suf­fer from pover­ty and seri­ous amounts of repression.

I often con­cen­trat­ed on Kazakhstan because it has been a lit­tle bit more clever in eas­ing the repres­sion to a cer­tain extent and allow­ing, as I say, that mon­ey to trick­le down. But it’s still a klep­toc­ra­cy because the peo­ple can’t change their lead­ers. The sys­tem is built on con­trol­ling resources and not allow­ing any kind of polit­i­cal pluralism.

Udensiva-Brenner: And what’s inter­est­ing about klep­toc­ra­cy and what you talk about at great length in the arti­cle that you wrote for Harriman Magazine is that while on the sur­face klep­toc­ra­cy seems to be the prob­lem of what­ev­er coun­try is being run by klep­to­crats, when you look deep­er, you real­ize that all these oth­er glob­al insti­tu­tions are involved.

I think a real­ly good illus­tra­tion of this is Kyrgyzstan. And you did a report on it and back in 2013 called Grave Secrecy that illus­trates just how many inter­na­tion­al actors can enable klep­to­crat­ic gov­ern­ments. So, can you talk about that report and the case?

Mayne: Absolutely. Yes, klep­toc­ra­cy can’t exist with­out the West, because part of a klep­toc­ra­cy is get­ting the wealth out of the coun­try, legit­imiz­ing it through buy­ing real estate, through hav­ing bank accounts in America and in Europe and cre­at­ing safe­ty for that wealth that you have stolen.

And the case you men­tioned was one of my most dif­fi­cult but, per­haps, most suc­cess­ful reports. The Kyrgyz Republic’s largest bank at the time was a bank called Asia Universal Bank. It had won awards. It was the biggest bank. It was the best bank. But when there was a change of pow­er in 2010 and the regime at that time, the Bakiyev regime, was removed from pow­er, it was then dis­cov­ered that Asia Universal Bank was basi­cal­ly a mon­ey laun­der­ing scheme, but it had man­aged to sur­vive because it had pre­sent­ed itself through very can­ny oper­a­tions as being a legit­i­mate institution.

How did it do this? Well, it employed for­mer U.S. sen­a­tors, includ­ing Bob Dole, as board mem­bers. And there’s a great inter­view online with one of the peo­ple from AUB who hired the sen­a­tors. An inter­est­ing char­ac­ter called Eugene Gourevitch who stud­ied in America. He said he was amazed, that he did­n’t think that the sen­a­tors would ever be part of some­thing like Asia Universal Bank, but because the wages were high, they agreed to come on board.

Udensiva-Brenner: Did they know how cor­rupt it was when they agreed?

Mayne: I reck­on they knew absolute­ly noth­ing about the cor­rup­tion there, because it looks like, from our inves­ti­ga­tion, there was a sys­tem of dou­ble book­keep­ing that was kept from the sen­a­tors and the Western board mem­bers, what was real­ly hap­pen­ing. And Gourevitch actu­al­ly in the inter­view speaks about this kind of round robin sys­tem of every­body’s say­ing that every­thing’s okay — so, the sen­a­tors say it’s okay because the due-dili­gence com­pa­ny says it’s okay — with­out real­ly get­ting to the fact that this was a bank that was reg­is­ter­ing thou­sands of shell com­pa­nies and using those shell com­pa­nies to siphon mon­ey abroad. And it per­haps comes as no sur­prise that the chair­man of the bank was very close friends with the son of the pres­i­dent at that time.

And I think that’s a great exam­ple because, on the sur­face of it, you know, peo­ple could actu­al­ly see, Oh, wow, Bob Dole’s on the board. It must be okay, right? Bob Dole would­n’t get involved in any­thing sus­pi­cious or shady. But I think he sim­ply had no idea of what was hap­pen­ing in the bank. And to be hon­est, I don’t think Bob Dole real­ly knew any­thing about the Kyrgyz Republic or any­thing about Central Asia before he joined this bank.

So, it was a great illus­tra­tion of how the West enables that kind of Kleptocracy. And when it comes to enabling those var­i­ous lev­els of com­plic­i­ty, there are cer­tain­ly those peo­ple who are active­ly, help­ing peo­ple steal mon­ey. But I think the sys­tem also relies on those peo­ple who just sim­ply don’t under­stand, are either turn­ing a blind eye, or sim­ply don’t ask the right ques­tions and are com­plic­it in that way.

Udensiva-Brenner: And do you think those sen­a­tors could have done some­thing dif­fer­ent and exposed or under­stood bet­ter what was happening?

Mayne: I think in this exam­ple it was a per­fect sys­tem because they had hired Kroll and APCO, com­pa­nies involved in due dili­gence, to check out the bank and say, actu­al­ly, it’s got real­ly good mon­ey laun­der­ing pro­ce­dures in place.

Now, I myself had actu­al­ly seen the report that Kroll did on Asia Universal Bank, and the prob­lem with it was it did­n’t real­ly address the main ques­tion, which was Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the pres­i­dent, [and his] pos­si­ble influ­ence over the bank. It dealt with this par­tic­u­lar top­ic in a very offhand­ed man­ner and said, well, there’s a lot of rumors, but there’s no proof.

And that’s is a prob­lem some­times we find with due dili­gence, that if you have a finan­cial inter­est in con­tin­u­ing your rela­tion­ship with a bank, you can be swayed in that direc­tion, pro­duce a report that basi­cal­ly gives a green light when, if you’re doing prop­er due dili­gence, inde­pen­dent due dili­gence, you should real­ly be try­ing to answer these ques­tions and to get to the bot­tom of it.

So, I would say it’s 50/50. It was a very well-hid­den scheme. But I think more could have been done to look at the peo­ple involved here and real­ly ques­tion why this bank was so suc­cess­ful on the surface.

Udensiva-Brenner: A quick edi­to­r­i­al note here. A cou­ple of days after our inter­view I got an email from Tom telling me that he was prob­a­bly a lit­tle lenient on the sen­a­tors in his response to my ques­tion. The first thing the sen­a­tors should have asked, he wrote, is why is this bank offer­ing me so much money?


Udensiva-Brenner: And what was the reac­tion to your 2013 report about Kyrgyzstan? Was there any pol­i­cy response?

Mayne: I like to think that it led in part to a change in the United Kingdom, a large part of the report demon­strat­ed how Asia Universal Bank was using shell com­pa­nies to trans­fer mon­ey and it was shown that a lot of them were reg­is­tered in the UK, not the Cayman Islands, not the British Virgin Islands, but actu­al­ly on the UK main­land. And this was because there just aren’t checks, or at least weren’t checks in the UK about who reg­is­ters com­pa­nies. It’s obvi­ous­ly a big prob­lem in the United States as well, that only now is being addressed through pol­i­cy, and the way the UK dealt with it was, before, you did­n’t have to put the actu­al own­er there, the ben­e­fi­cial own­er, the real own­er on pub­lic record in the United Kingdom, you could use a proxy, a nom­i­nee. After the report, there was a move­ment by NGOs and from oth­er orga­ni­za­tions to change this. And now we have a ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship reg­is­ter in the UK.

So, when you reg­is­ter a com­pa­ny in the UK, even if you’re a lawyer or a proxy, you have to put down on record the actu­al per­son con­trol­ling the com­pa­ny. Now, cer­tain­ly, there are still ques­tions over whether this infor­ma­tion is being checked. And I think there are move­ments ahead to improve the sys­tem so peo­ple who are abus­ing it are held accountable.

But that I think is one change that the report led to. And I think that’s fed into move­ments in the U.S. as well. The U.S. isn’t going to have a pub­lic reg­is­ter at the moment, but at least it is now mak­ing moves to put the real own­ers, the actu­al own­ers of U.S.-registered com­pa­nies, to col­lect that infor­ma­tion for law enforcement.

Udensiva-Brenner: And how has aware­ness of klep­toc­ra­cies and their glob­al reach evolved since you pub­lished that report, or maybe even since you start­ed work­ing on glob­al cor­rup­tion? Can you talk about the evo­lu­tion of what’s been happening?

Mayne: I think just the term klep­toc­ra­cy has become very com­mon in the last per­haps only five years. Ten years ago, it would per­haps have been a con­fus­ing term. I think peo­ple are famil­iar with it now, with all the dif­fer­ent kinds of media out­lets, even Buzzfeed and Vice are report­ing on kleptocracy.

The Arab spring was quite a big moment because after that it was revealed that Gaddafi and Mubarak had assets in the UK and in the U.S. And per­haps also with the Trump Organization’s, deal­ings abroad, or, what­ev­er you think of it, the inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump and Russia, did bring these ele­ments more to the fore­front. That, yes, of course, cor­rupt for­eign gov­ern­ments are going to try and influ­ence for­eign politi­cians. And there are lots of exam­ples of that. And this has fed into our think­ing of what klep­toc­ra­cy is and the dan­gers of it.

Udensiva-Brenner: Given that our last pres­i­dent alleged­ly made deals with klep­to­crats, what do you think the fall­out might be for the U.S. in terms of its cred­i­bil­i­ty in the fight against klep­toc­ra­cy in the future?

Mayne: Well, obvi­ous­ly the U.S. rep­u­ta­tion was def­i­nite­ly harmed. I like to look to the future and, Biden is obvi­ous­ly going to have a very full agen­da in the next four years, but it seems like he gets klep­toc­ra­cy. He has writ­ten about it. He’s talked about for­eign cor­rup­tion and the effect it can have on democ­ra­cy in the United States, and he’s say­ing all the right things. And that is good to hear.

So, even though we’ve had that set back of those four years, it seems like, both in terms of recog­ni­tion of klep­toc­ra­cy, and moves to improve U.S. leg­is­la­tion, that is a good sign and hope­ful­ly will con­tin­ue for the next few years.

Udensiva-Brenner: And chang­ing leg­is­la­tion and then enforc­ing it can be quite tricky as we can see from the UK, which imple­ment­ed some of these things ear­li­er. Can you talk about how some of these laws have worked in the UK and what the U.S. can learn from them?

Mayne: Well, I think, U.S. ver­sus UK, they have their strengths and weak­ness­es. And actu­al­ly the U.S. has imple­ment­ed cer­tain things which are very inter­est­ing that the UK has­n’t had. For exam­ple, geo­graph­ic tar­get­ing orders, which relate to the fact that in real estate pur­chas­es in, I think 12 high-val­ue areas, in the United States — so Miami, New York — you have to col­lect the infor­ma­tion on the ben­e­fi­cial own­er. And this has real­ly seen a dra­mat­ic reduc­tion in cash pur­chas­es in the United States in those areas, because it seems like, the con­clu­sion we have to draw from that is that peo­ple who have mon­ey of dubi­ous ori­gin, they don’t want to have their name on record. This is some­thing that the UK does­n’t have.

Where does the UK have some advan­tage? Well, for exam­ple in its anti-mon­ey-laun­der­ing leg­is­la­tion, it rec­og­nizes this con­cept of the polit­i­cal­ly exposed per­son (PEP), basi­cal­ly a for­eign politi­cian or a fam­i­ly mem­ber. And it means that in cer­tain reg­u­lat­ed indus­tries — real estate bank­ing, accoun­tan­cy — you have to make sure you’re iden­ti­fy­ing a per­son as a PEP and do enhanced due dili­gence on their source of funds. And this isn’t in oper­a­tion in for exam­ple, a real estate indus­try and in the United States.

In terms of real­ly new leg­is­la­tion to do with klep­toc­ra­cy, we could per­haps talk about the Unexplained Wealth Order in the United Kingdom -

Udensiva-Brenner: That was going to be my next question.

Mayne: And this is on the sur­face very inter­est­ing because it allows the UK enforce­ment bod­ies to, if they have a sus­pi­cion that a for­eign politi­cian owns a house, for exam­ple, in the UK, which is worth far more than their salary, they can issue one of these orders and the own­er of the house then has to explain their sources of wealth.

And if they fail to do so then that house can then be recov­ered under civ­il recov­ery pro­ceed­ings because it is deemed to be pur­chased on the pro­ceeds of crime. There have only been a few cas­es so far and only two involv­ing polit­i­cal­ly exposed peo­ple in the UK. And one of them was pret­ty much a dis­as­ter for our enforce­ment body, the National Crime Agency, because the own­er of the house, Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daugh­ter of the first pres­i­dent of Kazakhstan, man­aged to come up with a lot of infor­ma­tion say­ing that the house pur­chas­es were legit­i­mate. Now she appealed to the Kazakh Prosecutor’s office for rul­ings on the legit­i­ma­cy of her wealth. And for some rea­son, the judge in the case decid­ed that that was acceptable.

And obvi­ous­ly the whole point of Unexplained Wealth Orders is that they’re sup­posed to get around the issue of not being able to trust enforce­ment agen­cies in klep­toc­ra­cies. And yet, here in one of the first cas­es we had a judge say­ing, well, if Kazakhstan says it’s okay, then it must be okay.

So, I think in essence it’s a great piece of leg­is­la­tion because it allows UK enforce­ment bod­ies to ask ques­tions and get infor­ma­tion where they haven’t been able to before. But it cer­tain­ly needs to be tweaked in order to coun­ter­act the fact that polit­i­cal­ly exposed peo­ple are going to hire these very expen­sive lawyers and are going to find ways to get around it.

And we have a report com­ing out lat­er in the year that iden­ti­fies four or five issues with this leg­is­la­tion and how it can be changed. I think prob­a­bly, there’s some­thing per­haps a lit­tle bit un-American about it, in that it revers­es the bur­den of proof and that per­haps it would be hard for it to get passed in the United States. But then, as I say, geo­graph­ic tar­get­ing orders seem to be doing a pret­ty good job at reduc­ing sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions, sus­pi­cious real estate trans­ac­tions in the United States. So, there’s plus­es and minus­es to the dif­fer­ent regimes for sure.

Udensiva-Brenner: And can you talk about the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) leak and what it exposed and shed light on?

Mayne: Absolutely. I think the FinCen files were fas­ci­nat­ing because they con­firmed what anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign­ers have thought for quite a while, name­ly that the sys­tem of report­ing sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions is fun­da­men­tal­ly bro­ken. In banks, you can basi­cal­ly escape legal lia­bil­i­ty by fil­ing what’s called a sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty report (SAR), which means that you send to FinCen in the United States and the equiv­a­lent in the UK, the National Crime Agency, a lit­tle notice about why you think that this par­tic­u­lar trans­ac­tion has sus­pi­cions of mon­ey-laun­der­ing or ele­ments of mon­ey laundering.

That would seem on the sur­face of it good. You want banks to report such sus­pi­cions. The prob­lem is, in the U.S. mil­lions of reports are filed every year — I think the num­ber in the UK was 500,000. And it seems that banks, rather than hav­ing a gen­uine inter­est in stop­ping mon­ey laun­der­ing — they could close the clien­t’s accounts, they could pre­vent the trans­ac­tion from being com­plet­ed — they’re just send­ing these SARs to a very under­fund­ed and over­loaded enforce­ment agency, which just has­n’t the abil­i­ty to look at these hun­dreds of thou­sands, mil­lions of SARs and to stop the mon­ey from flowing.

Meanwhile, banks still con­tin­ue to accrue bank­ing fees and the peo­ple who were send­ing the SARs escape legal lia­bil­i­ty. So, in that sense, the sys­tem, I think, is bro­ken. It is being over­hauled in the United Kingdom. And I think it’s cer­tain­ly needs to be looked at in the United States in light of the FinCen leak and what it showed us.

Udensiva-Brenner: Isn’t there also some com­pet­i­tive advan­tage to turn­ing a blind eye because if some coun­tries are still enabling klep­toc­ra­cy, they’re prof­it­ing from it. So then oth­er coun­tries that are maybe try­ing to fight it and aren’t prof­it­ing from it as much, might they not then be more tempt­ed to turn a blind eye?

Mayne: I mean, def­i­nite­ly. There’s def­i­nite­ly a race to the bot­tom going on here. Certainly, we’ve seen this with the var­i­ous U.S. states and, you know, try­ing to reduce any reg­u­la­tion on com­pa­ny reg­is­tra­tion, for exam­ple. Because you know, Wyoming, Delaware, they want the com­pa­nies to come to their state and to accrue those fees.

There’s not a joined-up approach between a lot of nations. And as you say, there’s def­i­nite­ly a feel­ing in the finan­cial ser­vices, well, you know, if I don’t take this mon­ey, some­body else will. And the fact that vir­tu­al­ly nobody is pros­e­cut­ed for facil­i­tat­ing mon­ey-laun­der­ing, if there’s no reper­cus­sions then the mon­ey con­tin­ues to flow and the klep­toc­ra­cies get rich­er and those coun­tries start to get more oppres­sive and that starts to feed into our democ­ra­cies. So, it’s a real nasty, vicious cycle.

Udensiva-Brenner: And par­tic­u­lar­ly in the U.S., it’s so dif­fi­cult to pros­e­cute white col­lar crime, that even if there is leg­is­la­tion that might crim­i­nal­ize the enabling — I mean there is, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — it nev­er gets enforced because pros­e­cu­tors are afraid to lose, and so they don’t prosecute.

Mayne: And when you have these hun­dreds of thou­sands of SARs, you know, you’re going to con­cen­trate on the most egre­gious. When you have sit­u­a­tions involv­ing that gray­ness of cap­i­tal, you’re just not going to inves­ti­gate it.

Udensiva-Brenner: And can you talk about the Global Magnitsky Act and its effects?

Mayne: The glob­al Magnitsky Act is an addi­tion to the orig­i­nal Magnitsky act, which was leg­is­la­tion intro­duced to sanc­tion Russian offi­cials involved specif­i­cal­ly in the killing of a lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was involved in inves­ti­gat­ing Russian finan­cial fraud and hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of mon­ey being laun­dered through the glob­al finan­cial sys­tem. This led to the Global Magnitsky Act, which was tak­ing the idea of the Magnitsky Act, that we should sanc­tion peo­ple involved in human rights abus­es and cor­rup­tion and not allow them to ben­e­fit from the use of the U.S. finan­cial system.

So, peri­od­i­cal­ly, human rights abusers and offi­cials involved in cor­rup­tion are added to the Global Magnitsky List and yes, you are not allowed to trans­act with them if you are a U.S. cit­i­zen or a U.S. finan­cial insti­tu­tion, for exam­ple. And there are some quite high-pro­file names on it. [Ramzan] Kaydrov, the leader of Chechnya, he’s on the Global Magnitsky List.

And I think it is a very use­ful tool because one thing that is a prob­lem with klep­toc­ra­cy is when you have a risk-based approach, peo­ple will just say, well, there isn’t a risk here and do what I said ear­li­er, just say­ing, well, this per­son­’s a, you know, a big fish in Kazakhstan. That’s good, right? I should be accept­ing his mon­ey. And, once some­body becomes sanc­tioned and is on the Global Magnitsky List, it becomes very hard to deal with them. And, and I don’t think any rep­utable or even semi-rep­utable bank­ing insti­tu­tion would trans­act with them. So, it is a use­ful tool.

There are equiv­a­lents being cre­at­ed in the EU and in the UK, but we are yet to see on it many names from Central Asia, cer­tain­ly on the U.S. side of things. The UK and the EU are just get­ting start­ed. A Kyrgyz offi­cial, [Rayimbek] Matraimov, was put on the glob­al Magnitsky list. Recently he was involved in hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of what appears to be mon­ey laundering.

But for these to have teeth we need to see some more high-pro­file fig­ures in there. I think it’s unlike­ly that you’d ever see obvi­ous­ly, a head of state or a min­is­ter being sanc­tioned, I think that would be too polit­i­cal­ly risky. But there are a whole cadre of these mid-rank­ing offi­cials who were involved in klep­to­crat­ic prac­tices in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, those Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic that we need to see on the Global Magnitsky List for it to start to have some kind of effect.

Udensiva-Brenner: And the world is just slow­ly emerg­ing from this glob­al pan­dem­ic, some parts faster than oth­ers, oth­ers, not at all. All these economies are now in sham­bles. How do you think that will affect the fight against kleptocracy?

Mayne: Well, I wrote an opin­ion piece for the Independent web­site, which basi­cal­ly flagged that as a risk, that with all our economies basi­cal­ly in ruins, there is a dan­ger that we’re going to be less inclined to turn away that kind of dodgy mon­ey from klep­toc­ra­cies. And espe­cial­ly with the UK leav­ing the EU, there’s per­haps even more of a push to turn the UK into some kind of off­shore haven, make it kind of like Switzerland where all the Kazakhs and Russians have pri­vate bank accounts.

Udensiva-Brenner: And just to wrap up, why should the aver­age per­son liv­ing in one of these democ­ra­cies affect­ed by klep­toc­ra­cies, why should that per­son care?

Mayne: There’s so many rea­sons. House prices get dis­tort­ed. So, the aver­age cit­i­zen can’t afford to live in cer­tain areas because for­eign mon­ey of dubi­ous ori­gin is flood­ing into these areas and push­ing up the house prices in the UK. Obviously, we have Russian secu­ri­ty forces poi­son­ing peo­ple in our coun­try. That is part of the whole, the whole game.

We have finan­cial insti­tu­tions going under because the mon­ey that they’ve tak­en is not as strong as they thought it was. It under­mines democ­ra­cy when you have law­mak­ers fly­ing off to Azerbaijan and hav­ing nice hol­i­days there, and in the case of one European politi­cian was actu­al­ly bribed by the Azerbaijani regime to speak good of Azerbaijan in the European par­lia­ment. He’s now being jailed, but if that had not been inves­ti­gat­ed you can start to see how we become part of the kleptocracy.

I think peo­ple under­stand cer­tain­ly in, in the U.S. the dan­gers of big busi­ness, the dan­gers of big busi­ness­es hav­ing too much pow­er, cap­i­tal being con­densed into just a few peo­ple’s hands, you add in the klep­to­crat­ic ele­ment to that and for­eign pow­ers try­ing to influ­ence pol­i­tics and to try and use that cap­i­tal to do nefar­i­ous things. I think that only exac­er­bates those prob­lems that many Americans are all too well aware about.

Udensiva-Brenner: Thank you so much. This was real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. And the work you do is so inter­est­ing that I’m sure our lis­ten­ers will real­ly enjoy the interview.

Mayne: My plea­sure Masha, it’s always good to speak about klep­toc­ra­cy because not many peo­ple lis­ten to me. Thank you.

Udensiva-Brenner: Thanks for lis­ten­ing to expert opin­ions, Russia Eurasia, a pod­cast from the Harriman Institute at Columbia University and Eurasianet. I’m your host, Masha Udensiva-Brenner. I love to hear from lis­ten­ers and hope to hear from you or email or what­ev­er oth­er social chan­nel you pre­fer. I would also appre­ci­ate a review on Apple, Spotify, or wher­ev­er you get your pod­casts. And please sub­scribe to the show if you haven’t done so already. Thank you, until next time!

www.irishsun.com by Eurasianet

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