This is an excruciatingly depressing book. Investigative journalist Oliver Bullough came up with the term Moneyland to describe a secret economy third only to the US and China that hordes money stolen by kleptocrats all over the world. The most corrupt regimes are the countries of the former USSR, Nigeria and Afghanistan but any of the super-rich can belong to this club. Nested shell companies obscure the true ownership of the money, as do tax havens. Only now, it’s not just Jersey or the Cayman Islands etc we need to be worried about, it’s the US, with its trusts, while it hypocritically requires Swiss banks to be more open. Money flows anywhere it can. Laws stop at the borders.
Bullough delineates how this came about and its effects. Not only do tinpot dictators in Africa and elsewhere deprive their people of goods and services, leaving them in abject misery and poverty, this behaviour threatens democracy itself. For example, it seems as though illicit money found its way to the Leave lobby during Brexit. US laws that would have required more financial transparency were canned by Trump, to say nothing of possible Russian interference with the US election campaign itself. In Ukraine, corruption became so rife that people stopped expecting anything different. Trust in government is non-existent.
You don’t need to be an economist or banker to understand this book. It’s a riveting, well-researched read. Although Bullough is optimistic that it’s not too late, I wouldn’t be so sure. Greed will never go out of fashion, and it’s toxic. At least China’s government cracked down on corruption, causing Chinese officials to hide their Rolexes.
This book is an objective and comprehensive explanation of how tax avoiders and blatant criminals use the same vehicles for different reasons to avoid tax and hide assets. Knowing this, you can understand why education and health funding is under strain.