The Enablers: How Western Professionals Import Corruption and Strengthen Authoritarianism

Ben Judah, Research Fellow &
Nate Sibley, Program Manager, Kleptocracy Initiative

September 2018 Report


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Globalization is play­ing out unex­pect­ed­ly as gov­ern­ments, busi­ness­es, and indi­vid­u­als around the world are con­nect­ed to one anoth­er at an unprece­dent­ed rate. These new con­nec­tions were at first wide­ly hailed as enhanc­ing the influ­ence of the United States, but their true polit­i­cal con­se­quences are only just begin­ning to become clear.

One of the most impor­tant but over­looked dynam­ics, giv­en its nation­al secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions, has been the per­va­sive net­work­ing of American pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices providers with pow­er bro­kers and their acolytes from cor­rupt author­i­tar­i­an states. Certain ele­ments with­in the legal, finan­cial, and influ­ence com­mu­ni­ties, seek­ing new mar­kets, clients, and prof­its among an emerg­ing glob­al class of super wealthy actors with for­tunes of dubi­ous prove­nance, have in the past fif­teen years begun offer­ing their ser­vices to transna­tion­al klep­to­crats linked to author­i­tar­i­an regimes. From Washington lob­by­ists with Kremlin-linked accounts to New York law firms with Chinese Communist appa­ratchik clients, these tie-ups have a detri­men­tal effect on the polit­i­cal and the finan­cial work­ings of American democracy—one that is only growing.

This report argues that these pro­fes­sion­als have become enablers of author­i­tar­i­an influ­ence with­in democ­ra­cies in a twofold man­ner. First, they are facil­i­tat­ing the con­ceal­ment, inser­tion, and deploy­ment of klep­to­crats’ illic­it funds with­in Western economies. Second, they are using their skills and exper­tise to help klep­to­crats estab­lish net­works of influ­ence inside demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­eties. This rela­tion­ship between Western pro­fes­sion­als and author­i­tar­i­an elites has not only fueled a boom in mon­ey laun­der­ing; it has trans­formed sig­nif­i­cant ele­ments of the most dis­tin­guished, influ­en­tial pro­fes­sions into whole­sale importers of transna­tion­al corruption.

All doc­u­ments you can reed here: The Enablers:: How Western Professionals Import Corruption and Strengthen Authoritarianism

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