Even a decade ago, the emergence of kleptocracy – a political system where leaders use their positions of power to enrich themselves – was seen by those living in ‘developed’ states as being a marginal risk that affected only poor or undemocratic societies. However, as we have learned since then, no society – however well-established – is immune from the lure of financial and political corruption.
One of the leading journalists chronicling the progress of kleptocracy across the world is Tom Burgis, an award-winning reporter and a long-standing member of the Financial Times’ investigations team. In his most recent book, Kleptopia, published in 2020, Burgis exposes how seemingly disparate events, such as a massacre on the Kazakh steppe or a stolen election in Zimbabwe, can be linked to a hidden web of connections that touches centres of power not only in Beijing and the Kremlin, but also the City of London and, ultimately, the White House.
In this session, Burgis will discuss the inner workings of this growing global network of kleptocratic elites, and the efforts of quiet heroes seeking to highlight this problem, such as the compliance officer-turned-whistleblower Nigel Wilkins, who features in the book. Burgis also will explore how half-hearted government and private sector initiatives have failed to challenge the problems of corruption and illicit finance so far, and consider more effective ways to take the fight to the kleptocrats, now.
Interview with Tom Burgis, Investigations correspondent, Financial Times