A former Russian correspondent explores the secretive system of global kleptocracy and how the institutions of Europe and the United States have become its money-laundering operations, attacking the foundations of many of the world's most stable countries.
Bullough approaches his forbidding task by coming up with clear, snappy metaphors for the offshore world and how it works. He explains them, and then deploys them again and again, like catchphrases or portentous images in a novel ... Bullough’s concise, confident book is full of...jaw-dropping examples. It also covers a lot of historical ground ... Some of this narrative is a bit too neat. The political forces for and against offshore capitalism, and how they ebbed and flowed during the 20th century are scarcely mentioned. Instead, as if narrating a documentary, Bullough sometimes searches too self-consciously for colorful characters and locations. But more often his busy and determined reporting from the Caribbean, eastern and western Europe and the U.S.—south-east Asia and the Middle East feature perhaps less than they should—produces memorable and telling scenes ... He is surprisingly successful at getting some of the architects of the offshore world to open up ... Bullough’s book is pacy, clever and far more entertaining than you’d expect of a work on this subject. Sometimes it moves so fast you suspect that nervous lawyers have been involved. At other times, you wish he’d written about the offshore manoeuvrings of tax-averse mainstream corporations as well. But if you still have any illusions about the wonders of liberated capitalism, Moneyland will probably cure you.
After years of exhaustive investigative research for the book he also calls Moneyland, Bullough offers not just a bill of particulars spanning continents but a polemic about the dangers of a global cancer that must be exposed and combated. In dizzying detail, Bullough takes us on a tour of Moneyland, a place one part defined by geography and several parts more by demography ... Bullough offers in sometimes excessive detail anecdotes of the rich and not-so-famous secreting fortunes, often through webs of interlocking trusts that disguise identity and place assets beyond the reach of governments ... Like all polemics, this one is strong on passion, but even with ample examples, the assertion that Moneyland is a fatal rot does not make it so. Corruption may weaken open institutions in countries where they were never entrenched, but is that cause or effect? Bullough brilliantly uncovers the scope of hidden money, but whether that represents an existential threat to democracy remains an unresolved, and crucial, question.
... opens with the simultaneously delicious and disturbing accounts of the excesses and corruption of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates as well as Viktor Yanukovych, the disgraced former president of Ukraine. ... exposing absconding kleptocrats is practically an inherent good. Unfortunately, the book is tinged with a bizarre political context that confuses our author’s analysis and distracts from its mission of illumination ... tells us nothing about what the aims or functions of government ought to be! ... when Bullough continuously laments about capital flows without borders (oddly explained by analogies to children’s puzzles and oil tankers) it sounds a lot like a desire to insulate governments from consequences such as capital flight ... his political context also causes him to place too much faith in the ability of money to solve, or lack thereof to cause, political problems ... Oliver Bullough’s book to some extent fulfills its purpose of giving ‘The inside story of the crooks and kleptocrats who rule the world’ but is too muddled by an unnecessary political context that misplaces criticism, neglects moral ambiguities, and places more explanatory power on Moneyland than it can bear.