6. Weekend Reads

Back by popular demand after a week out for the Budget, here's a few longer reads for the weekend about political, economic and social issues.

The fall of Malaysian leader Najib Razak, who was Donald Trump's 'favourite prime minister', has been stunning. Some of the details about his corruption are now emerging, as explained in this excellent New York Times explainer. We should always follow the money, the story of the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund is something else. He stole US$7.5 billion from the fund and used it to buy a 22-carat pink diamond necklace, worth US$27.3 million, for his wife, as well paintings by Monet, Van Gogh and Warhol and others worth over $200 million, and on luxury real estate in the United States. Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, had a handbag collection that rivaled Imelda Marcos' predilection for shoes.

Speaking of money laundering, this article at Interest.co.nz by New Zealand money laundering regulation expert Ron Pol argues that current AML-CFT controls have barely put a dent in illegal money flows. 'Despite nearly three decades, and global ubiquity, money laundering controls scarcely have the impact of a rounding error on criminal accounts,' he writes in a detailed piece.

The worst culpit in money laundering terms is London. Stephen Castle reports for the New York Times on a British Parliamentary report that says the Government there is essentially turning a blind eye to massive money laundering through London by Russian oligarchs and mafia. If Britain was really serious about punishing Putin and his mates, they would make a serious effort to shut down the money laundering. Also, storied London law firm Linklaters is in the spotlight. The committee asked whether the firm was “so entwined in the corruption of the Kremlin and its supporters that they are no longer able to meet the standards expected of a U.K.-regulated law firm.”

One city hoping to win the prize in Europe to replace London as the main financial centre is Paris. Citylab reports on an amazing idea in Paris: making public transport completely free to reduce carbon emissions, to clean the air and make Paris more attractive to investors. How refereshing, and the cost of 6 billion euros seems remarkably small for the potential benefits. I've always wondered why cheaper public transport is not used more often as a way to boost use, efficiency and to lift the disposable incomes of the poor.

Have a great weekend.