Illicit activities are exploding worldwide. The onslaught of globalization has unleashed a tidal wave of bad stuff--everything from arms trafficking, human smuggling, and money laundering to music bootlegging. Here is the dark side of globalization: the mushrooming underground economy. Moisés Naím explores this murky world in his book Illicit
. Naím is the editor of the relaunched magazine Foreign Policy
and a former executive director of the World Bank and Minister of Trade and Industry of Venezuela. In Illicit
, he unties the connections between the Colombian cocaine dealer, the New York banker steering money to offshore tax havens, the Albanian forcing women into prostitution, and the Chinese market stall-holder selling counterfeit DVDs.
Naím reports that legitimate global trade has doubled since 1990 from $5 to $10 trillion. Meanwhile, money laundering has gone up tenfold, exceeding $1 trillion a year. Smuggling and money laundering have always existed, but Naím shows how they have increased at a staggering pace in the wake of globalization, despite new government controls since 9/11. The main culprits are the collapse of the Iron Curtain and state deregulation. As the reach of organized crime has expanded, governments have failed to keep up. Naím illustrates the problems with stories about A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb who sold nuclear technology to North Korea and Libya; Walter C. Anderson, an American who was accused of hiding $450 million in offshore accounts to evade taxes; and Vladimir Montesinos, the Peruvian intelligence czar who is on trial for trafficking drugs and arms. The book, while a little dry, will be interesting to policy buffs and aspiring crooks alike. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this sweeping and informative work, Foreign Policy
editor Naím demystifies the global trade in illegal goods and services and, in the process, presents an original portrait of globalization that skillfully eschews the utopian doggerel that often characterizes such accounts. Naím provides a detailed tour of the major globalized criminal activities—drug production and distribution, illegal arms dealing, human trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering and so on—and introduces a host of criminal networks that profit from them. The book is regrettably devoid of the kind of firsthand reporting from the field that would have made the subject matter really jump off the page. Yet Naím creates a picture of illicit trade which demonstrates that, far from taking place in a shadowy underworld, such activity is inextricably linked to legitimate commerce and directly affects all of us. In Naím's view, globalization's "diffusion of power to individuals and groups" and away from sovereign states has created a "smuggler's nirvana," in which the lines between legitimate and illegitimate economic activity are blurred and criminal networks possess an unprecedented degree of political influence. Making matters worse, the widening gap between global haves and have-nots—what Naím calls "geopolitical bright spots and black holes"—has increased the incentive for individuals and groups on both sides of the divide to participate in illicit activities. The remedy? In addition to offering a bevy of specific policy ideas, Naím urges readers to move away from simplistic moral denunciations and to focus, instead, on reducing the demand for criminals' goods and services and on weakening the incentives for ordinary people to become involved in their enterprises. (On sale Oct. 18)
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