While Americans like to talk about justice and human rights, our leaders have been rather willing to tolerate and support rules whose greed is exceeded only by the wickedness. In fact, we allow them to visit our country and store their ill gotten gain here.
Newsweek recently published an article on this subject, revealing various disturbing facts. The main example used in the article was Teodoro Obiang, son of the dictator of Equatorial Guinea. He jets to his $35 million Malibu mansion in his $36 million Gulfstream V, presumably to be close to the millions of dollars he has stashed away in dummy corporations. In contrast, 70% if the people of Equatorial Guinea live on under $2 per day.
It might, obviously enough, be argued that this is not our concern. After all, even if he is living well while the people live in abject poverty, this is a matter of sovereignty: if the people want to allow his lifestyle, that is their choice.
However, this does not seem to be their choice. This money was apparently looted from the government and extorted. And, of course, the ruler is a dictator and hence choice (aside from not choosing to have a rebellion) does not really enter into this matter. As such, we are hosting a thief and his money, which seems to be a bit of an ethical problem.
While America does have some rather strict anti-corruption laws, there is vast hole in these defenses. To be specific, it is almost as easy to create a shell company in the United States as it is to create a Facebook account. While a law was considered that would require state governments to determine the actual owner of corporations, this law was not supported by Obama in 2009 (ironically, he sponsored an earlier version when he was a senator). As such, these shell companies remain an easy way for dictators and their associates to dump their stolen money into the United States.
As to why we tolerate him and other such people, the obvious answer is that their governments are seen as serving “our” interests. We tolerated and supported Mubarek because of our strategic interests. In the case of Equatorial Guinea, we are happy to keep the dictator and his family happy because of the oil. There is also the obvious advantage to having these evil people spending the wealth of their people on American goods and storing their pilfered loot in America. That spending certainly helps our economy. Some cynical folks might even claim that the rich have a sense of class consciousness and use their influence for the advantage of their own kind. If so, it would hardly be surprising that wealthy Americans would be willing to ensure that things were easy for their fellows in other parts of the world. After all, they have far more in common with each other than they do with the little people who just happen to live in the same country.