An alarming, and often alarmist, survey of how spending by consumers might support terrorist organizations and organized crime enterprises, especially drug cartels.
Neumann, the president of Asymmetrica, a consultant group that advises governments and corporations about combating illicit trade, refers to Venezuela, where she was born, to demonstrate how a leftist government takeover can become just as easily mired in corruption as a rightist one. Throughout the book, the author relies on examples from her personal life, her work as a consultant, research studies (from the United Nations and other sources), and her deeply felt ideology. She warns that terrorist groups and drug cartels have learned to join forces to assist each other in their lethal activities, and such an unholy partnership sometimes depends on the corruption of government officials. However, a good portion of the financing for global criminal enterprises arises from individual consumers who purchase black market drugs and cigarettes and knockoff clothing and handbags produced by slave labor. Further funding comes from gambling on sporting events that might be fixed in advance as well as the sex trade, in which the money often flows to dangerous groups around the world. Neumann provides plenty of examples, some of them clearly delineated but others murky because her evidence is speculative. The author consistently mentions money laundering as a major part of corrupt cultures, but she doesn’t explain its mechanisms and processes until the last third of the book. She is persuasive in her contention that honest citizens unwittingly contribute to the budgets of criminal enterprises, but her alarmist tone might cause some readers to wonder whether Neumann is overstating the seriousness of the threat to global security. Furthermore, the needless repetition of her message and the hard-to-follow organization of the chapters make much of the narrative a slog.
An uneven treatment of a topic that merits further study.