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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 [via]