The world’s wealthy countries often criticise African nations for corruption – especially that perpetrated by those among the continent’s government and business leaders who abuse their positions by looting tens of billions of dollars in national assets or the profits from state-owned enterprises that could otherwise be used to relieve the plight of some of the world’s poorest peoples.
Yet the West is culpable too in that it often looks the other way when that same dirty money is channelled into bank accounts in Europe and the US.
International money laundering regulations are supposed to stop the proceeds of corruption being moved around the world in this way, but it seems the developed world’s financial system is far more tempted by the prospect of large cash injections than it should be.
Indeed the West even provides the getaway vehicles for this theft, in the shape of anonymous off-shore companies and investment entities, whose disguised ownership makes it too easy for the corrupt and dishonest to squirrel away stolen funds in bank accounts overseas.
This makes them nigh on impossible for investigators to trace, let alone recover.
It is something that has long bothered Zimbabwean journalist Stanley Kwenda – who cites the troubling case of the Marange diamond fields in the east of his country.
A few years ago rich deposits were discovered there which held out the promise of billions of dollars of revenue that could have filled the public purse and from there have been spent on much needed improvements to roads, schools and hospitals.
The surrounding region is one of the most impoverished in the country, desperate for the development that the profits from mining could bring. But as Kwenda found out from local community leader Malvern Mudiwa, this much anticipated bounty never appeared.
“When these diamonds came, they came as a God-given gift. So we thought now we are going to benefit from jobs, infrastructure, we thought maybe our roads were going to improve, so that generations and generations will benefit from this, not one individual. But what is happening, honestly, honestly it’s a shame!”
What is happening is actually something of a mystery because though the mines are clearly in operation and producing billions of dollars worth of gems every year, little if any of it has ever been put into Zimbabwe’s state coffers.