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Martin Kenney: Grand Corruption is a crime against humanity

The perpetrators of Grand Corruption are an A-List of kleptocrats who have pillaged their respective countries and their people of countless billions of dollars.

One case study is the Chavismo debacle, where political and commercial corruption has reportedly cost the people of Venezuela in the region of $300 billion.

The effects of such monumental losses on the people of Venezuela are (and remain) profound. There are shortages of medicines, frustrating simple antibiotic treatments or issues as serious as cancer. To help mend broken limbs, water-filled bottles may be hung from a leg or arm while in hospital, providing the traction necessary to straighten broken bones.

Many reports have outlined how black market sources supply medicines at many times their usual value, obtained via smugglers operating across the country. It is this reality that needs to be spelled out when talking about Grand Corruption.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines kleptoacracy as “a society whose leaders make themselves rich and powerful by stealing from the rest of the people.

That’s true. And if we make it easy for kleptocrats, their corruption will only increase. We have to put obstacles in their way. That’s why we have compliance. That’s why as a society we police banks and why the offshore world is under increasing pressure to put its house in order.

A network of compliant professionals, banks, organizations — and even countries — need to be held accountable. Without them the kleptocrats would face an uphill struggle to launder and spend their criminal proceeds. 

I have long-advocated that Grand Corruption should be considered a crime against humanity under Article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. I have written numerous articles on the subject and often discussed its implications.

As a lawyer who investigates international fraud, corruption and asset recovery, I am familiar with the architecture of offshore corporate structures used to camouflage the origin and purpose of illicit payments. I also believe that compliant legislators are enacting laws designed to ease the passage of tainted funds through various monetary payment systems.

Beyond that, I view Grand Corruption in more stark terms: namely its devastating effects. The pain and misery inflicted on the people of Venezuela is the latest reminder of why kleptocracy should be called what it is: a crime against humanity.


Martin Kenney, pictured above, is Managing Partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors, a specialist investigative and asset recovery practice based in the BVI and focused on multi-jurisdictional fraud and grand corruption cases |@MKSolicitors. He was recently selected as one of the Top 40 Thought Leaders of the Legal Profession in 2017 by Who’s Who Legal International.

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  1. Generally, as is the case of Venezuela, Brazil etc., there is a combination of corruption and poor public management, not only one of these
    In other cases there are other reasons: economic blockage (Cuba, Iran, Irak), commodities price variation (also valid for Venezuela regarding crude oil) etc.

  2. an interesting article. Indeed obstacles should be put in front of kleptocrats otherwise their appetite just gets bigger and the people poorer and poorer.

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