The threat to democracy

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The Guardian reports this morning that:

International organised crime has become a $2 trillion (£984bn) behemoth that threatens to pervert democracy around the world and fuel already dangerous levels of global inequality, a new study warns.

While the world is getting richer, the relentless rise of organised crime has emerged as one of the most potent threats to the planet's future, alongside global warming and the scarcity of drinkable water, according to the State of the Future survey by the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

The annual takings of criminal gangs around the world are roughly equivalent to Britain's GDP, or twice the world's combined defence budgets. Half of that amount is paid as bribes, which tend to make the rich and powerful even wealthier.

And although democracy is on the rise, with nearly half the world's population now living in democratic systems, it is in danger of being demolished by a culture of bribery.

"The implications the world has to understand is that government decisions can be bought and sold," Jerome Glenn, head of the association's millennium project and one of the report's authors said. "What happens if organised crime decides that instead of buying and selling cocaine or heroin, it's going to buy and sell government decisions? That's a threat to democracy."

Contrary to the stereotype of the banana republic, only a minority of the political bribes paid each year goes to public officials in the developing world. The report published this week finds "the vast majority of bribes are paid to people in richer countries" where decision taking is "vulnerable to vast amounts of money".

And you can be sure that much of this crime takes place through the world's tax havens.

These places are the suppliers of corruption services, as are those who provide the banking, accounting and legal facilities in the offshore finance centres that operate in these places.

And all of them, to a person, threaten the wellbeing of the world as a whole.