The scholarship on inequality has been producing a wealth of empirical findings about how inequality is created, expanded and perpetuated, building on the work of Thomas Piketty in tracing capital flows. Read the rest
In an absolutely epic Twitter thread (unrolled here) author CZ Edwards lays out an incredibly compelling explanation of spiralling real-estate prices: oligarchs need to launder a lot of oil money -- think Russia, Iran, ex-Soviet basket-case states, Saudi -- and so they plow the money into offshore Real Estate Investment Trust that then cleans it by outbidding any actual real-estate investors or would-be homeowners, bidding up and snapping up all the property in desirable cities, and then realizing the rental income-flows as legitimate, clean money. Read the rest
In 2015, the Malaysian government collapsed after a scandal involving embezzlement from the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund; the scandal shows no sign of slowing down, with fresh accusations against the country's business and political leadership surfacing regularly and one prime suspect, the financier and "tabloid party boy" Jho Low going on the run, a fugitive believed to be in China. Read the rest
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
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
Welp, the United States Department of Justice just finished off their first major initiative to take on drug dealers and other shifty types plying their trade on the dark net. So far as stings go, it went pretty well!
After seizing the reigns of an online money-laundering operation, Homeland Security Investigations just kept on for a year, offering to clean the currency for a number of criminal operations, swapping out their dirty cash in exchange for slightly less dirty cryptocurrency.
Homeland Security offered their fake money laundering services to users of a number of different dark net market places, including Wall Street, AlphaBay and Dream Market. Given the yen of the Feds to take down whole marketplaces in the past, the sting marks the shift to a new strategy that makes a whole lot more sense: go after the criminals that use a given market instead of the market itself. There’s no sense in shutting down a Silk Road when everyone that was pulling nefarious shit will just move their business to Silk Road 2.0 or another market. You’ve gotta go after the vendors themselves.
From The Verge:
Read the rest
So far, prosecutions have been launched across 19 states as a result of the operation, seizing more than $3.6 million in cash. The same raids seized large quantities of Schedule IV pharmaceuticals — including 100,000 tramadol pills and over 24 kilograms of Xanax — as is typical of trade on dark net markets. Agents also recovered more than 300 models of liquid synthetic opioids and roughly 100 grams of fentanyl.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists teamed up with the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism (Cenozo) to delve deep into 27.5 million files from the Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers to investigate how the super-rich in 15 West African countries have looted their countries' wealth and then smuggled it offshore through a network of tax-havens, even as their countries starve. Read the rest
If you are an oligarch or criminal looking to exfiltrate and launder your money, London property markets have been your go-to asset class: London lux is real-estate that behaves like cash, thanks to the long line of oligarchs and criminals who'll pay cash for your safe-deposit box in the sky on a few hours' notice, should you need to liquidate ahead of a purge or an indictment. Read the rest
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
Amazon reported to the IRS that Patrick Reames had made $24,000 selling books on its Createspace self-publishing platform, but Patrick Reames never got a dime of that money; it appears that a money-launderer who had Reames's Social Security Number used a fake book to cash out money from stolen credit cards by buying the garbage book repeatedly and pocketing the 70% from each sale. Read the rest
The USA has moved up in the Tax Justice Network's Financial Secrecy Index to number two, behind Switzerland; in reality, though, the UK is the world's worst money-laundry, but because its laundering activities are spread out over its overseas territories -- taken as a whole, the UK leads the world in helping criminals and looters hide their fortunes. Read the rest
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
The financial secrecy regimes in New Zealand and the UK create many opportunities for "jurisdictional regulatory arbitrage," playing each system's weaknesses off against the other to operate in near-perfect secrecy, creating companies whose owners are anonymized but still able to cash out the firms' profits -- an enormous boon to fraudsters who run Ponzi schemes and other dodgy enterprises that rely on the UK and New Zealands' reputation as places of good governance and financial uprightness. Read the rest
The EU's new blacklist of 17 money-laundering financial secrecy states includes South Korea, Mongolia, Namibia, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and also includes a long-list of places like Guam, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Read the rest