Dirty money makes the world go ’round

It's no surprise: the West is rich, the rest is poor. Seventy to ninety percent of global income flows to the top twenty percent of the world's population. But here's what you didn't know: A lot of that money is illicit. According to conservative estimates, under-the-table financial outflows from poor countries to rich countries amounted to $500-800 ...

It's no surprise: the West is rich, the rest is poor. Seventy to ninety percent of global income flows to the top twenty percent of the world's population. But here's what you didn't know: A lot of that money is illicit. According to conservative estimates, under-the-table financial outflows from poor countries to rich countries amounted to $500-800 billion in the 1990s and 2000s. That's ten times more than the foreign aid that made its way from rich countries to poor countries during that same time period: a mere $50-80 billion. Raymond Baker, director of Global Financial Integrity, shared these numbers at a presentation he gave yesterday. He says that the trend of hiding cash in wealthy nations' bank accounts started in the 1960s when elites in the newly-independent developing world realized that they didn't need to tuck stacks of rolled-up currency under the mattresses. Sending it to safe havens in places like Zurich, London and Manhattan was far easier.

The ease with which dirty money travels around it the world is the biggest legal loophole of capitalism. It's made those sitting in the top twenty percent of the income tower a lot richer. But shouldn't it make them a little uncomfortable too?

It's no surprise: the West is rich, the rest is poor. Seventy to ninety percent of global income flows to the top twenty percent of the world's population. But here's what you didn't know: A lot of that money is illicit. According to conservative estimates, under-the-table financial outflows from poor countries to rich countries amounted to $500-800 billion in the 1990s and 2000s. That's ten times more than the foreign aid that made its way from rich countries to poor countries during that same time period: a mere $50-80 billion. Raymond Baker, director of Global Financial Integrity, shared these numbers at a presentation he gave yesterday. He says that the trend of hiding cash in wealthy nations' bank accounts started in the 1960s when elites in the newly-independent developing world realized that they didn't need to tuck stacks of rolled-up currency under the mattresses. Sending it to safe havens in places like Zurich, London and Manhattan was far easier.

The ease with which dirty money travels around it the world is the biggest legal loophole of capitalism. It's made those sitting in the top twenty percent of the income tower a lot richer. But shouldn't it make them a little uncomfortable too?

Erica Alini is a Rome-based researcher for the Associated Press.

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