Disruptive Friday #16: Are Kleptocrats the big winners of Covid-19?




Disruption Network Lab




Tom Burgis


Disruptive Fridays website

In the first Disruptive Fridays episode of the year, Disruptive Network Lab will be joined by award-winning investigative journalist and author Tom Burgis to discuss the opportunities that the pandemic has provided for kleptocracy to flourish. Across the world, we’ve seen dramatic increases in government spending, logistical obstacles for watchdogs monitoring kleptocratic financial flows, and a ready-made excuse for restrictions on freedom of movement… and political protest. In our conversation, Tom will share his wealth of experience on the topic (nodding to his recently published second book, ‘Kleptopia: How dirty money is conquering the world”), on how the crisis has helped to break down defences against kleptocracy. What can we learn about the response to the pandemic and the structures that allow the transnational kleptocracy to thrive, what are our strategies to hold power to account and could the post-pandemic future look brighter?


Tom Burgis is an award-winning investigative reporter. Based in London after years as a foreign correspondent in South America and Africa, he is a long-standing member of the Financial Times’ investigations team. He has exposed major corruption scandals, covered terrorist attacks, coups and forgotten conflicts, and traced dirty money from the Kremlin to Washington. His journalism has won awards in the US and Asia and he has twice been shortlisted at the British Press Awards, the British Journalism Awards and the European Press Prize.

His first book, The Looting Machine, was published in 2015. It revealed how the exploitation of Africa’s vast natural resources condemns the continent to corruption, conflict and poverty. The New York Times called it a ‘brave, defiant book’. It won the Overseas Press Club of America’s award for the year’s best book on international affairs. Kleptopia: How dirty money is conquering the world, his second book, was published in September 2020. It exposes the hidden connections that link a massacre on the Kazakh steppe and a stolen election in Zimbabwe to the City of London and, ultimately, the White House. Burgis reveals how the world’s kleptocrats – those who rule through corruption – are uniting and threaten to overwhelm democracy.

Alannah Travers is a Digital communication manager at the Disruption Network Lab. She stumbled into the Disruption Network Lab office soon after moving to Berlin in October 2020 and has been managing the online communications ever since. After graduating from Durham University (UK) in 2018, she worked for a variety of political communications agencies and social movements. At university, she worked with recently resettled refugees to hold events, language classes and the “Durham for Refugees” summer festival. In London, she cut her teeth at more traditional advertising agencies (Breakthrough Media and M&C Saatchi), before spending six months working on media and messaging at Extinction Rebellion. Alannah remains especially interested in the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and, more widely, broader public policy initiatives to tackle growing inequality and promote a sustainable future for all.

Join the conversation live on Friday at 17:00 hrs (Berlin time) on Disruption Network Lab’s website

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