Corruption fuels conflict

Anne Tolley
Transparency International New Zealand

In a system without checks and balances, Russian elites are emboldened to act against international law, now beginning a war in which thousands of lives may be lost. Corruption kills, and governments around the world have a responsibility to address the root causes of such conflict.” Daniel Eriksson, Transparency International CEO

Corruption fuels conflict and insecurity globally, and we are now seeing its effects acutely in the case of Russia and Ukraine. Along with our global movement, Transparency International New Zealand expresses its solidarity with the people of Ukraine and with Russian citizens risking their lives to speak out against war. 

We call on leading economies to address the corruption exacerbating this conflict and stop the flows of money funding corrupt Russian officials and their attacks on the people of Ukraine.

Leading democracies have facilitated the conflict by allowing kleptocrats to further their interests and power across the West. Just last week Transparency International reported on a German state foundation secretly controlled by Russian gas company Gazprom and acting in support of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The 2020 FinCEN Files investigation revealed several Russian oligarchs – including those with close ties to Putin – involved in suspicious activities and with unchecked access to the international financial system. 

Recent investigations have also made it clear that kleptocrats have taken advantage of lax regulations and opaqueness in the financial system to lay the groundwork for the conflict we’re seeing today. They use banks not only to launder money and their reputation, but also to build power. Leading democracies let them get away with it. Kleptocrats continue to easily move funds, buy assets and invest in crucial sectors of the economy across the globe. 

Anonymous companies and a criminal services industry offer bank accounts, luxury mansions and goods and even citizenship in exchange for lucrative investments. In fact, very little is known about the assets of these oligarchs, where they are located and where their interests lie. 

The West can no longer allow its financial systems to enable dirty money flows around the globe and especially in Russia. Now is the time for governments to put a full stop to the dirty money that fuels corruption and conflict. Equally urgent is a concerted effort to locate and freeze assets that could be connected to corrupt Russian officials in bank accounts and invested across the globe.

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