J. C. Sharman

 

On his book The Despot's Guide to Wealth Management: On the International Campaign against Grand Corruption

Cover Interview of November 20, 2017

A close-up

Of the four host countries I studied—the US, Britain, Switzerland, and Australia—the last one seems like the odd one out. Aside from the fact that I am from there, Australia was important as the dog that didn’t bark, i.e. where the government wasn’t even trying to investigate whether there were foreign corruption proceeds in the country. The Australian government’s position was that there is simply nothing to investigate, because there is no foreign dirty money down under. (In contrast, though they are facing many obstacles, the governments of the other three countries are at least making genuine efforts to find and return foreign corruption proceeds.)

In order to sustain my hunch that the Australian government’s claim was wrong, I hired a private investigator experienced in financial crime to look for suspicious money, especially in the Australian real estate sector. Thanks to detailed property records that are searchable online, it was possible to match a list we compiled of senior foreign officials who were accused of serious corruption crimes in their home countries, with their real estate investments bought with tainted funds in Australia. These individuals’ social media profiles were often crucial in connecting the dots.

Thus, contrary to the complacent public position of the Australian government, we found that dozens of foreign officials accused of serious corruption crimes had recently bought property and invested suspicious funds in Australia. Rather than representing any inherent Antipodean virtue, or the absence of tainted funds from abroad, the lack of investigations is a cynical political judgement to let sleeping dogs lie.