Jan 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Anti-corruption alliance targets "uniting force of dictators"

Illustration of a stack of money as the bait in a bear trap.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. and European lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for the inaugural meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance against Kleptocracy, whose objective is to harmonize the Western world's approach to countering corruption.

Why it matters: Members of the cross-border, cross-party coalition view corruption as "the uniting force of dictators" — a systemic threat undermining trust in democracy, and siphoning trillions of dollars in stolen funds from the global financial system.

  • "To me, the transnational threats today have moved from an ideological communism to a crony capitalist threat," Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) told a small group of reporters after the IPAK meeting.
  • "The bad guys hate it when we get together," said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). "They're much more threatened when the United States, European Union and our democratic allies around the world speak in a single voice."

What's happening: "In a number of spots around the world, this combination of attacks on fundamental freedoms and democracy — combined with stealing citizens' money — is getting more severe," said Daniel Freund, a German member of the European Parliament.

"This is not just a foreign problem that's happening in faraway countries," Freund said.

  • An increasingly authoritarian government in Hungary is using EU funds to entrench its power and enrich its elites.
  • London has become a black hole for wealth plundered by the world's oligarchs, including those close to Russia President Vladimir Putin.
  • U.S. real estate, meanwhile, is the world's No. 1 destination for money laundering.

The big picture: IPAK was officially formed in December, riding the momentum from a banner year of new policies, strategies and revelations about the scale of 21st century corruption.

  • The Pandora Papers investigation by the International Consortium of Journalists revealed extensive details about hidden assets owned by wealthy individuals around the world — including elected officials and heads of state.
  • The Biden administration released the first-ever U.S. government strategy on countering corruption during the "Summit for Democracy" last month, vastly increasing the intelligence and diplomatic resources dedicated to the issue.
  • The U.S., EU, Australia, Canada and the U.K. either adopted or expanded their use of Magnitsky-style sanctions, which target individuals involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption.

The bottom line: "The philosophy for President Biden's Summit for Democracy was that democracy needs tending to by representatives such as ourselves, in order not to be taken for granted, and in order to avoid what happened here one year ago," said Dutch MEP Lara Wolters.

  • As she spoke, she gestured out the window at the Capitol.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for Axios Sneak Peek

Go deeper