Washington Post Opinion: To uphold democracy, the U.S. must fight global corruption

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By Janet L. Yellen and Samantha Power

For Immediate Release

Monday, December 6, 2021

Just a 30-minute drive from the White House is another estate — a six-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion outfitted with a movie theater and a seven-car garage. When the home was purchased in 2010, it wasn’t immediately clear who the new owner was. The purchase, according to a civil forfeiture complaint, was made via private trust.

It was only years later that the public learned the buyers behind the trust were Yahya Jammeh, the former president of Gambia, and his wife. Jammeh fled Gambia after committing serious human rights violations and embezzling millions of dollars from his people. He allegedly transformed a portion of that stolen money into several thousand square feet of Potomac, Md., real estate.

Around the world, in countries as varied as Russia, Venezuela and China, the wealthy and the well-connected launder their assets through complex networks of shell companies or transactions involving art, real estate and, occasionally, cryptocurrencies. Sometimes those gains are ill-gotten and sometimes they are legitimately earned but illicitly hidden to evade taxes. But what links all corrupt acts is that they take resources from citizens, undermine public trust and — ultimately — threaten the progress of those who fight for democracy.

This week, representatives of more than 100 nations will gather virtually for President Biden’s Summit for Democracy. The gathering is a recognition that the world’s democracies need a new strategy. For the past 15 years, the number of people living under authoritarian regimes has been rising, while leaders of many democratic countries have been chipping away at fundamental rights and checks and balances.

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Last updated: December 02, 2022

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