Talking corruption, technology, empiricism and fairness with the Bitcoin Podcast

I'm something of a Bitcoin skeptic; although I embrace the ideals of decentralization and privacy, I am concerned about the environmental, technological and social details of Bitcoin. It was for that reason that I was delighted to spend a good long time chatting with the hosts of the Bitcoin Podcast (MP3), digging into our points of commonality and difference; despite a few audio problems at the start, the episode (and the discourse) were both fantastic. Read the rest

The world's "free trade zones": hives of scum and villainy

Institutions like the IMF like to encourage poor countries to set up "free trade zones" (AKA "freeports," "special economic zones," etc): effectively unregulated import/export zones where environmental, labor, tax, customs, financial and other rules are either nonexistent or much looser than in the rest of the country. These are billed as a means to stimulate the local economy by bringing in international corporations. Read the rest

The weak spots that let journalists expose the finances of looters, organized criminals and oligarchs

The trillions that the global looter class has stashed in offshore financial secrecy jurisdictions are protected by the joint tactics of absurd complexity and stultifying dullness, which have been created by a separate group of global looter-enablers, working for big accounting and audit firms, banks, law firms, even private schools. Read the rest

US prosecutors say the "bankrupt" Sacklers still have billions hidden away

The Sackler family (previously) made more money than the Rockefellers when their family business, Purdue Pharma, misled the public about the addictiveness of its flagship opioid, Oxycontin, and induced doctors to overprescribe it, kicking off an epidemic that has killed more Americans than the Vietnam war, with the body count at 400,000 and still climbing. Read the rest

A loophole in nonprofit law means that corporate lobbying is at least double the official figure

Officially, Americas total 2017 corporate lobbying group spending was $535m, but as much as $675m more was funneled from industry groups to politicians as part of influence campaigns. Read the rest

Understanding "transfer pricing": how corporations dodge taxes through financial colonialism

Every day, the world's poorest countries lose $3b in tax revenues as multinationals sluice their profits through their national boundaries in order to avoid taxes in rich countries, and then sluice the money out again, purged of tax obligations thanks to their exploitation of tax loopholes in poor nations. Read the rest

Voting machine companies: the names of our parent companies are trade secrets

When the North Carolina State Board of Elections asked the voting machine companies whose products were used in state elections who owned those companies, both Election Systems & Software and Hart Intercivic claimed that the answers to the question were proprietary, confidential trade secrets that would devalue their companies if they were divulged. Read the rest

Why can't we see big companies' tax returns?

As Russell Brandom writes, "before 1976, corporate tax returns were broadly considered part of the public record" and there's been bipartisan support since for mandating that big companies show us how they're structuring their earnings (this was especially urgent after the Enron scandal). Read the rest

Ukrainian oligarchs accused of laundering $470b, buying up much of Cleveland

Billionaires Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov used to own Privatbank -- the largest bank in Ukraine -- and now they are being sued for using it for a decade to launder more than $470b (through its Cyprus subsidiary) ($470b is more than double the GDP of Cyprus over the same period). Read the rest

Denmark's largest bank laundered €200B through its Estonian branch, ignoring glaring warning signs

Before Thomas Borgen was CEO of Danske Bank, he ran the bank's Estonian branch from 2009-2013, presiding over years of neglect of basic, commonsense money-laundering controls, allowing more than €200B to flow through the bank from well-known financial secrecy jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands, as well as Russia. Read the rest

Britain is a money-launderer's paradise, Part LXII

Paul Manafort's money-laundering conviction makes a convenient peg to hang Buzzfeed's investigation into shell companies in the UK off of; and what their excellent reporting reveals is a playground for money-launderers who operate in the most brazen way, using a complex system of shell companies all over the world, but using the UK as the the lynchpin for their schemes. Read the rest

Bipartisan amendment forces UK government to impose transparency on its offshore tax havens

One cute side-effect of Brexit is that it got the UK out of pending EU rules limiting financial secrecy as part of a crackdown on money laundering by looting dictators, one percenters, and criminals; the Tories had put a process in train to come up with a made-in-Britain version, which was always going to be weaksauce thanks to the outsize influence of the City of London and its finance bosses on UK politics, but even that was killed by Theresa May's disastrous snap elections last year. Read the rest

Scottish Tories defeat anti-money-laundering measure aimed at shutting down the Russian oligarch-Scotland pipeline

The Scottish Limited Partnership is a notorious financial secrecy vehicle that's been used to launder at least $80 billion, mostly from oligarchs and organised crime figures from the former USSR, in only four years. Read the rest

The UK is finally cracking down on its Russian money-laundry, but hasn't hired people to do the job

Scottish Limited Partnerships are a preferred money-laundering tool of the world's criminals, looters and oligarchs, especially favored by criminals from the former USSR, who have pumped an estimated $80B through them in the past four years alone. Read the rest

The UK's company registry finally prosecuted someone for setting up a fraudulent company, but it's a whistleblower who told them he did it

Companies House, the UK registry of companies, is widely known to be filled with fraudulent registration information about directors, addresses and ownership, and it's this willingness to tolerate fraud that has made the UK one of the first ports of call for criminals and looters looking to launder their fortunes. Read the rest

Scottish police confirm requests from world governments to find money laundered through "the UK's homegrown secrecy vehicle"

Scottish Limited Partnerships (previously) are notorious corporate entities whose true owners are easily disguised, making them perfect vehicles for money laundry. Read the rest

Scotland is still a financial secrecy exporter, laundering billions for Russia's crime-bosses and oligarchs

If you're an oligarch in the former Soviet Union, chances are you owe your billions to corruption and even overt criminal activity, and your ability to hang onto that money is entirely contingent on the sufferance of the even-more-corrupt strongmen at the top, like Vladimir Putin -- one wrong move and you may find yourself stripped of your assets (or even assassinated in broad daylight). Read the rest

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