Kleptocracy is a widely used but poorly understood concept, which different writers employ to mean very different things. This article analyzes the history of the word to situate the phenomenon it describes—egregious grand corruption—in the context of the birth of offshore finance in the 1960s. It describes kleptocracy as, by necessity, a crime that requires the use of multiple jurisdictions to hide crooked politicians' money. Finally, it explains how greater transparency in the ownership of assets would enable the world to combat kleptocracy by breaking the pathway—steal, obscure, spend—that all kleptocratic wealth follows.


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