Welcome to Moneyland: a place where the corrupt move their assets around the globe, dodge laws and add to their coffers with ease. We all know it goes on, but how does it work? The nub, says Oliver Bullough is that ‘money flows across borders, but laws do not’. This extraordinary work of investigative writing begins in the Ukraine, under the Yanukovich presidency, (a ‘greed-drunk thug’ by Bullough’s reckoning) and then travels back in time and around the world. At the core is an analysis of the relationship between money and power: a story as old as the hills, but never so devastating as it is today. We learn how money can be kept hidden far away from home, how taxes can be evaded, and how no one is entirely sure who owns many of the houses in a city’s poshest districts because they were paid for with cash.
This is an utterly depressing account of the offshore economy, tax havens and shell companies. Bullough is a wonderful guide through Moneyland and, during his travels, he has managed to pry a surprising amount of information from officials who might have been expected to be tight-lipped. It all makes for a bleak but informative read.
Bullough writes with great clarity and has an ability to summon a memorable phrase. The book’s subtitle says it all. ‘Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World & How to Take it Back.’ Bullough is excellent when it comes to answering the first half of that question. He is less so with the second half. It would seem that our corrupt world might be here to stay.
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