Alexander Cooley, Columbia University - How kleptocracy has polluted London and the UK

Alexander Cooley, Columbia University
How kleptocracy has polluted London and the UK


When the now-imprisoned Russian dissident Alexey Navalny first called President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia “the party of crooks and thieves,” he was identifying the Putin government as a “kleptocracy.” That, says one scholarly summation, “is a system in which public institutions are used to enable a network of ruling elites to steal public funds for their own private gain.”

But, stealing is the just the first step in making kleptocracy turn a profit.  The next two steps, spelled out by Oliver Bullough in his book Moneyland, are hiding and spending. These usually involve moving what’s been stolen across an international border and finding legal, if not legitimate ways to make the assets hidden at home reappear abroad.

When it comes to this transnational hocus-pocus, most investigative focus has fixed on the post-Soviet states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia as generators of off-color swag and the United States and the United Kingdom as the happy landing spots for both the crooks and thieves and their ill-gotten gains.

London and New York City are to watchers of global corruption what bankers were to the famous robber Willie Sutton: “Where the money is.”

For some dealers in real estate, jewelry and art, for some lawyers, accountants and money managers, the money is good in the Shangri-Las of crooks and thieves. But for citizens of London and New York, of the United Kingdom and the United States, there are costs.



Alexander Cooley is an Academy Faculty Member, The Queen Elizabeth II Academy, Chatham House in London, and Claire Tow Professor of Political Science, Barnard College; Director of the Harriman Institute for the Study of Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe, Columbia University




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