Trend Watch

The FBI Announces the 'Largest Kleptocracy Case to Date'

The U.S. seeks to recover more than $1 billion in assets


Lookups for kleptocracy spiked after news reports that the United States government was using a program known as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Program to attempt to recover funds from a fund run by the Malaysian government.

The FBI has three dedicated international corruption squads—in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.—to deal with foreign bribery incidents that are often tied to kleptocracy, the term used when foreign officials steal from their own governments at the expense of their citizens.
FBI.gov, 20 July 2016

kleptocracy-asset-recovery-program
Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation

'Kleptocracy' means "government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed."

Kleptocracy takes its roots from the Greek kleptein (“to steal”) and kratos (“strength, power”). There are a small handful of words in English which share the initial portion of this word, such as kleptomania and kleptocrat. A kleptocrat is not necessarily a kleptomaniac, as the latter often steals things compulsively, and without an economic motive, while the former has a very clear motive, which is personal enrichment.

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