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Note to Alex Navalny: corruption rules the world.

The world's foremost anti corruption campaigner, Alex Navalny, wrote an article from prison recently that was published by The Guardian. In it, Navalny calls for a number of measures to be implemented, in the western world, so that  thugs like the ones ruling his country and mine can be stopped. I have news for Navalny: that call is as likely to happen as Putin or Maduro relinquishing power because their opposition is asking. Some context is needed to understand how deeply entrenched corruption is *in* the west.

The world's "superpower" has been rolling down a steady slope since the beginnings of this century. Few hallmarks signs of how corruption has deteriorated power in America could be used, but to me, perhaps the best exhibit was provided by Colin Powell, when he said without qualms and without a shred of supporting evidence, that Saddam had mobile facilities to build weapons of mass destruction. Lying, with such brazenness, put an otherwise credible and respected Powell in league with the likes of Maria Zakharova, or Delcy Rodriguez, that is, impossible to take any comment of theirs seriously. To lie like that, however, takes more than just gumption. It takes corruption at the highest levels. One thing is to seek justification for military action against terrorist aggressors -for which none is needed, though inventing stuff so easily disprovable is quite another.

The following years saw an Obama, a Trump and now a Biden. Again, there was no shortage of rampant corruption in America. The utterly corrupt from Venezuela provide useful examples. In the early years of Obama, Laurent Roccia (a proxy of Danilo Diazgranados) managed to get some sort of job at the U.S. Treasury. More recently Biden nominated Leopoldo Martinez (proxy of David Osío) as U.S. executive director of the InterAmerican Development Bank. The fact that these thugs, and their paymasters, managed to get in with such ease in high circles of power is explained, again, by corruption. Money stolen / misappropriated in Venezuela allowed both men to dazzle Democrats, which reacted with in-kind appointments / nominations. Another example is Alejandro Betancourt, the main thug behind Derwick Associates, who over the years has retained Hector Torres, Al Cardenas, Michael Volkov, Fusion GPS, Adam Kaufmann, Jon Sale, Rudy Giuliani and Thomas Clare among others. Rudy Giuliani, in fact, personally lobbied Atttorney General Bill Barr to stop Department of Justice's criminal probes into Betancourt's criminal empire. When asked on the matter, Giuliani said he couldn’t comment for it was a "matter of national security."

Far from being exceptional cases, I could also point to Abbe Lowell (Jared Kuschner and Ivanka Trump's lawyer) having been retained by former PDVSA CEO Rafael Ramirez, to former DoJ Attorney and "reputed" Dick Gregory working for Samark Lopez, or to America's preeminent legal brain David Boies, involved in a monumentally corrupt affair (PDVSA US Litigation Trust) with Maduro & co.

America is utterly corrupt, that much is certain. In the most capitalist country on earth, everything can be bought and provenance / legitimacy of money is never questioned. But so are all countries in Europe. Navalny mentioned the UK's Bribery Act in his piece, as an "excellent" tool "for combating foreign corruption." Perhaps he missed the fact that the Conservatives tried very hard to water down its effects on grounds that it would hamper the competitiveness of British businesses abroad (oh they know quite well how contracts are won). Perhaps news of David Cameron being up to his ears in corruption didn’t reach his cell. Perhaps he didn’t hear about George Osborne sipping champagne in Deripaska's yacht, or about the Lebedevs employing Osborne and cajoling Boris Johnson. Within the European context, the UK, or more specifically the City of London, is without question the biggest, most efficient laundromat. An important chunk of the income that keeps the pinstriped brigade alive is, precisely, the revenue stream generated by servicing Putin's People, as Catherine Belton would say. These thugs have received what amounts to royal treatment in Britain, that is the natural targets of Navalny's investigations live here, in obscene and very public opulence, without as much as a phone call from the National Crime Agency. The loot from Russia is not only welcomed here, but celebrated rapturously every time Chelsea F.C. scores a goal. The best example of this is that another tool that would stop corruption in its tracks in this jurisdiction -Unexplained Wealth Orders- has only been used a couple of times with little success.

Corrupt Venezuelans have also made London their European home. Betancourt, as described above, maintains a residence in 4 Cowley Street, a former LibDems HQ located behind Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Specific details have been furnished to relevant authorities, which have done absolutely nothing to determine whether Mr Betancourt's pied-a-terre in London is kept with legitimate funds. The Conservatives accepted with gratitude a £100,000 donation from Julio Herrera Velutini, a completely dodgy Venezuelan "banker". And Labour, well, what can be said of the party once led by Jeremy Corbyn, one of chavismo's main cheerleaders in Britain? What can be said of the party of Hugo Chavez's cheerleaders Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell?

Moving across the water, there's France, where Diego Salazar once summoned Dominic de Villepin to assist in recouping millions of Euros that had been frozen in Andorra as part of a vast corruption scheme centred at PDVSA. What could be added to François Hollande's decision to confer France's Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur to Bruno Magras, considering the latter's involvement with Luis Oberto? And were we to cross the mountains, either into Switzerland or Spain: Switzerland is known across the globe for its policy of see no evil when it comes to accepting wealth coming from abroad. If the Swiss could take the Nazis' loot without compunction (Persil-Scheine), they won't make a deal out of dealing with Russians or Venezuelans. Once clear of the Pyrenees, a territory where an employee of chavismo managed to reach the office of Vice President opens up. There, in Spain, the "brightest star" in the judiciary firmament is employed by none other than Alex Saab.

Perhaps is right to assume that Navalny is a dreamer, that he knows reality and wants to convince others through example to see things through his anti corruption prism. His set of measures that could difficult corrupt money flows hinges on the one thing absent in the western world: political will. There can be no hope when Biden, Trump, Johnson, etc., are themselves ear deep in corruption. Perhaps if he ever reaches the President's office, and becomes some sort of anti corruption crusader, Russia's gravitas will tilt the balance elsewhere in the right direction policy wise. But even then, the Swiss won't discard their business model, nor will the "sophisticated bankers" in London and New York. Furthermore, at the end of the day, prosecutors -like Prime Ministers- are nothing but government employees, badly remunerated, that have neither the judicial means, nor the intelligence, nor the drive to put away the likes of Abramovich et al. With stolen billions in hand, no official from a western world government- regardless of how high in food chain it might have reached- rejects "consultancy jobs" offered by the mega corrupt. Revisit Tony Blair, David Cameron, George Osborne or indeed Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's activities if in doubt. The fact that some of them, once retired from politics, run to become employees of the very targets they should spend a lifetime chasing is indicative of their moral compass.

Corruption is intrinsic to human behaviour, is greed by another name. Given the low risk of ever doing time because of it, anywhere, grand theft players will carry on forever, looting, subverting, buying, bribing, getting procurement or State assets for free and getting their way. There's far too much money guaranteeing that the political will that Navalny would like to count on never ever materialises where it matters. Legislative tools that combat corruption are ornaments never to be used against the corrupt. Their formulation / approval are mere lip service.


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