Something Rotten in the City of London

Chris Waller - 28th January 2022
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I had intended to write a book review for the last edition of Economania but, due to some confusion within Royal Mail and my local Post Office, this book was a week late reaching me. The book is ’Kleptopia’ by Tom Burgis, (published by William Collins, paperback edition 2021, ISBN 978-0-00-830838-4). It begins with four pages of excerpts from reviews drawn from a wide range of publications including the FT, the Economist, the New Yorker and the Washington Post, to name but a few. Indeed, it was an Economist Book of the Year in 2020.

The story that Burgis relates would make a good James Bond film. However the hero of this story is not Daniel Craig’s dashing intelligence agent but a rather tall, bespectacled, cerebral compliance officer for a major bank based in London, who has a chronic lung ailment and who later became an administrator for the Financial Services Authority.

Burgis’s tale of financial global corruption is almost beyond belief but, as he points out at the outset, this is a true story and all the more staggering for that. Burgis gives us a ‘Cast of Characters’ that is very helpful given that the story, centred around Kazakhstan, includes so many -ovs, -evs, -ovas, -iches and -itches that it is difficult to remember who is who.

The story begins in 2008, when the hero of the piece alerts his employer to what he believed was corruption, but his employer was less than interested in further investigation. After this frustrating lack of action he moves, by and by, to the FSA where he believes his investigations will bear fruit. He discovers that the FSA also are less than enthusiastic about taking action. The story does not have a happy ending, but suffice it to say that this book is a must for anyone trying to understand the current state of global financial corruption – in which the City of London is the main conduit for money of questionable provenance – and the concomitant corrosion of politics, both here and abroad.

The rot which Burgis describes has its origins in the mid-1980s during the Thatcher imperium, when the financial institutions were deregulated in what was then called the ‘Big Bang’ and which was supposed to release Britain’s financial markets to generate the prosperity lost by the destruction of manufacturing.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as Soviet Communism crumbled, the West – led by the USA with Britain as its European cheerleader – had a golden opportunity to work positively and productively with Mikhail Gorbachev, who was trying to reform Russia, and thereby completely restructure global security. In the event, the response of Reagan and Thatcher to the collapse of Russia was one of triumphalism and crowing about the demonstrable superiority of capitalism to communism. Russia was plunged into a decade and more of economic depression, adding to the humiliation. After the ousting of Gorbachev, one Boris Yeltsin assumed the presidency of Russia as its former satellite states went their own ways. As when any empire collapses, chaos ensued. The former Russian client states were taken over by kleptocrats intent on filling their own pockets. †1

Out of this chaos emerged one Vladimir Putin. As a certain Adolf Hitler nursed grievances about the defeat of Germany after the First World War and its subsequent economic collapse in the 1920s – if not caused then at least compounded by, as he saw it, his former enemies – so Putin nurses grievances about the collapse of Mother Russia at the hands, as he sees it, of Russia’s former Cold War opponents. And that brings us to today as Putin, assisted by his place-man in Belarus, threatens Ukraine.

The irony of this is that the West, as represented by Reagan and Thatcher, believed they had triumphed over Soviet communism once and for all and consigned it to history. In the event, in the City of London at least, it opened up Western financial institutions to the poison of foreign money emerging from the former Soviet satellite States, which have now descended into kleptocracies. Russia did not need to invade the West with divisions of tanks; it has succeeded in subverting it using the Trojan Horse of free-floating dirty money. †2

In conclusion, ‘Kleptopia’ is absolutely essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the extent to which British and Western financial institutions, and thereby their politics, have been subverted †3 over the last three decades, and most intensively since the global financial collapse of 2008.

†1 ●R: Here’s a most entertaining history podcast’s double episode about the leader of one of said former client states, the monumentally eccentric (code for dementedly hubristic) Turkmenbashy. Part 1 is Soviet Stooge, Hermit Tyrant and Part 2 is Putin, Taliban, Internet Shutdown 1] 55m17s ► 2]: 57m58s ►

†2 ●R: What no mention of the Rape of Russia? Another take on the subject is that Russia has broadly 2 factions, the new Whites & Reds – those who gained & those who lost from the chaos of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Atlanticists & Mafiosi joined in with Western banks & their vulture fund allies/shells †3 in stealing everything of any value they could from Russia herself, not just the satellite States. They then sought refuge with their ill-gotten gains ... in London. If that’s true, and many experts believe it is, then Putin is angry about the crime spree and wouldn’t you be too? And wouldn’t you want your govt to bear a grudge about it if it was your savings & pension & gas field rights that vanished overseas? And it wasn’t the first time the West looted Russia. When the Communists took over in 1917, what happened to Russian gold the Romanovs vaulted in London? Much the same as what happened to Venezuelan gold a century later? In that light, framing it as nursing a grievance like Hitler and holding Putin’s govt solely responsible for “the poison of foreign money” is perjorative. And what no mention of Chinese money?

Could the financial clout of those exiled “oligarchs” (code for gentrified mafiosi, because multi- billions can do a lot of superficial gentrification) be encouraging Britain to be so hostile to Russia? Liz Truss has recently been on TV issuing dire threats to anyone who takes Russian money. Luckily, she won’t need to travel far to find this lot; in 2018, it was a quarter of the Tory Cabinet: e.g. These are the first 2 stories I found on the subject and lo! it’s Labour too. They’re all at it: e.g. placed-house-arrest-accused-money-laundering.html

Politicians can’t admit what they’re for (cronyism & kleptocracy), so they need a bogeyman to be against, 1984 style. They sent sneery Liz Truss to Russia, where she revealed she hadn’t even looked at a map in preparation, and a week later war breaks out. Correlation isn’t necessarily causation, but bloody hell! Either way, now is not the time to be adding any more rhetorical fuel to the potentially nuclear fire. Insults & hypocrisy are not the same as challenging & disagreeing. However, now is the time to be praying for the wellbeing of the ordinary citizens of every country, involved in this (especially the Ukrainians) and generally (especially the Canadians). Anyway, here’s the excellent UK Column on the Ukraine situation on the 21st & 23rd February; beneath the video window of each episode is a contents list, with timestamps and citations: ►

†3 ●R: It wasn’t Russia or China that subverted Western financial institutions. They’ve been corrupt entirely of their own volition since the South Sea Bubble, using the British East India Company as their template. I’m not saying there’s no corruption in Russia, but that this is the crow calling the raven black. Which side am I on? The one where ordinary people don’t get trampled, robbed & killed by cartels of mafiosi kleptocrats fighting over who gets to exploit us & our nations’ natural resources. Speaking of financial corruption, Trudeau’s govt has seized from & frozen bank accounts of the truckers, their families and donors, all without due legal process, retroactively & with the cooperation of the banks. (Who are regretting it due to massive capital flight as people understand what it means.) This did not happen in a vacuum, nor all of a sudden; it is totalitarian tiptoe speeding up to a gallop, as Mussolini’s definition of fascism – corporate & govt merger – becomes blatant reality. To point solely in the direction of foreign dirty money is to distract from a much larger & more serious centuries-old global systemic corruption. We document it in every issue & it’s depressing. We look for more positive news but it is drowned out by the Amazon-sized gush of negativity that is the global mainstream, as the constructive & compassionate are marginalised, ignored &/or misrepresented.

●R: I can think of 3 reasons, all equally likely & disturbing, why the very mainstream Time might have printed a fake photo. 1▪It’s their agenda. 2▪They were under duress. 3▪They wrongly trusted the source and didn’t scrutinise what they were being fed; then millions of netizens spotted what a handful of busy editors did not. In contrast, Bild are to be congratulated for doing their job – truthfully informing the public – in this instance. Is that a Manchurian train (1931) & USS Maddox I see in the background? Are those recycled & fake photos “sexed up” Iraq-War-style? Does that sound of breaking glass mean it’s Kristallnacht again?

What they’re telling us is nowhere near all what’s going on. This puts a bit of a different complexion on things: “US bioweapons labs in Ukraine and Central Asia near Russia as a motivating factor in Putin’s moves”. Not just one or two but 13 or 15 and not far away but right on Russia’s doorstep. as-a-motivating-factor-in-putins-moves/

Encircling (see any map of NATO military bases) & repeatedly insulting Europe’s biggest gas supplier will make those high costs higher. Germany cancelling Nordstream2 smacks of devaluation – we didn’t want your crappy gas anyway, mweh – after the Russians already got fed up & shut off their end (just a guess, but it fits a time-honoured pattern) and sold the gas to any one of a long line of other politer countries, such as Japan (recall the new Kurile Island cooperation & trade zone, as they finally kiss & make up after the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War). It comes down to citizens getting squeezed & crushed so that politicians can play their great game of thrones. What we need are societies run on better principles and Economania’s are displayed on page 2 of every issue.

▼Chris: I think it important to start a debate. Burgis reports the situation now, but does not go into the deeper history of it. We are currently facing a tragedy because of the intransigence of politicians. ●R: So true! Does anyone know more about the deeper history? I just skimmed the surface there.

Chris Waller - Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if attributed to Chris Waller, unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

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