An unprecedented new international moral and legal rule forbids one state from hosting money stolen by the leaders of another state. The aim is to counter grand corruption or kleptocracy ("rule by thieves"), when leaders of poorer countries - such as Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, and more recently those overthrown in revolutions in the Arab world and Ukraine - loot billions of dollars at the expense of their own citizens. This money tends to end up hosted in rich countries. These host states now have a duty to block, trace, freeze, and seize these illicit funds and hand them back to the countries from which they were stolen.
In The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management, J. C. Sharman asks how this anti-kleptocracy regime came about, how well it is working, and how it could work better. Although there have been some real achievements, the international campaign against grand corruption has run into major obstacles. The vested interests of banks, lawyers, and even law enforcement often favor turning a blind eye to foreign corruption proceeds. Recovering and returning looted assets is a long, complicated, and expensive process.
Sharman used a private investigator, participated in and observed anti-corruption policy, and conducted more than a hundred interviews with key players. He also draws on various journalistic exposés, whistle-blower accounts, and government investigations to inform his comparison of the anti-kleptocracy records of the United States, Britain, Switzerland, and Australia. Sharman calls for better policing, preventative measures, and use of gatekeepers like bankers, lawyers, and real estate agents.
He also recommends giving nongovernmental organizations and for-profit firms more scope to independently investigate corruption and seize stolen assets.
About the Author
J. C. Sharman is Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management: On the International Campaign against Grand Corruption, The Money Laundry: Regulating Criminal Finance in the Global Economy, and Havens in a Storm: The Struggle for Global Tax Regulation, all from Cornell, and coauthor most recently of International Order in Diversity: War, Trade and Rule in the Indian Ocean.
"The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management is a very fine piece of work. In this exceptionally accessible book, J. C. Sharman provides a clear-sighted critique of grand corruption control efforts, offers very thoughtful interpretation of a range of legal cases and national practices, and juxtaposes rhetoric and claims in official settings with evidence of practice." - Michael Levi, Cardiff University, author of The Phantom Capitalists: The Organization and Control of Long-Firm Fraud and member of the European Commission's Group of Experts on Corruption
"The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management is a novel take on the conditions that shape nations' willingness and capacity, first, to enact laws to deter the influx of illicit finance (specifically kleptocrats' illegal assets) and, second, to take action to prosecute incidences of kleptocracy and return stolen assets to 'victim' countries. The case studies in the book - the United States, the UK, Switzerland, and Australia - are peppered with highly entertaining stories of scandals that have triggered (or not) host country action, with requisite attention to the non-response of home countries. This highly teachable book should be welcomed by national-level policymakers and practitioners at major international organizations." - Catherine Weaver, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin, author of Hypocrisy Trap: The World Bank and the Poverty of Reform
"The book’s strength derives from its avoidance of the common error of reading history backwards; looking for the particular characteristics of the present in the past." - Financial Times
"This informative book documents the sparse success of such recovery schemes, with special emphasis on the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Australia, listed roughly in order of how much they’ve accomplished... In the author’s view, the overall track record of recovery has been poor, partly because of weaknesses in the laws. However, the more pernicious problem, he notes, is lax enforcement of the rules that govern the gatekeepers who make it possible for kleptocrats to squirrel away illegally acquired assets: banks, of course, but also lawyers, brokers, and real estate firms." - Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs