Blood Money

"How Criminals, Militias, Rebels, and Warlords Finance Violence"

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Overview

It is convenient to think that bad guys are drumming up money for their activities far away and in shady back alleys, but the violent non-state actors (VNSAs) of the world are hiding in plain sight. They peddle knockoff sneakers, pass the hat at ethnic festivals, take a cut of untaxed booze sales, swindle senior citizens with bogus phone calls about needing bail in Mexico, and run money through mainstream banks to buy up rental properties (just to name a few). On a grand scale, their behavior erodes rule of law, creates moral injuries from corruption, and emboldens bad actors to steal and back violent tactics with impunity.  

Blood Money analyzes the ways in which VNSAs find money for their operations and sustainment, from controlling a valuable commodity to harnessing the grievances of a networked diaspora, and it looks at the channels through which they can flip the positives of globalization into flat, fast, and frictionless movement of people, funds, and materials needed to terrorize and coerce their opponents. Author Margaret Sankey highlights the mundane and everyday nature of these tactics, occurring under our noses online, in legitimate marketplaces, and with the aegis of intelligence services and national governments.   

While reforms attempt to curtail these options, their utility and efficacy as tools of finance have proved inadequate for sovereign states. VNSAs’ defiance of rules and their capable adaptation and innovation make them extremely difficult to pin down or prosecute.  

Many security publications stress legislation and enforcement or frame illicit finance as a military or police problem. With Blood Money, Sankey points out the many ways VNSAs evade law enforcement, and she offers options for involving consumers and activists in exercising agency and choices in how they apply their money and where it goes. Blood Money also provides context for whole-of-government approaches to attacking underlying supports for illicit financing channels. How these groups finance themselves is key to understanding how they function and what actions might be taken to derail their plans or dismantle their structure.   

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“In Blood Money: How Criminals, Militias, Rebels, and Warlords Finance Violence, Dr. Margaret Sankey has written the definitive account of the creation, flow, and employment of dirty money over the past half century. Utilizing a vast array of scholarly work, reportage, and government studies, Dr. Sankey reveals how violent non-state actors (ranging from revolutionary ideologues devoted to political change to purely criminal organizations dedicated to making money) exploit a variety of opportunities (from arbitrage to officially sanctioned fund-raising to drug running) to generate resources. She then connects this discussion with a magisterial account of how those actors exploit their flexibility and nimbleness to transport those resources, finance their activities (most importantly acts of violence), and sustain themselves. Her discussion connects diverse areas of scholarship, including those that address banks and currency networks, state stability, resource curses, organized crime, drug cartels, unconventional warfare, insurgencies and insurgents, terrorism and terrorists, the diamond industry, lobbying and interest groups, the fine arts and antiquities communities, and regional studies. The attention she draws to the connections between state intelligence agencies and dirty money is particularly sobering. Blood Money's expansive discussion of the phenomena of dirty money, its deep analysis of the vast number of processes and actors associated with dirty money, and its careful discussion of possible ways to combat dirty money will make this book of immense value to policymakers, enforcement officials, and scholars alike.” —David J. Lorenzo, Ph.D. Professor, College of International Affairs, National Chengchi University
“Behind every successful criminal enterprise is a bureaucrat managing the books and demanding receipts. Sankey’s deeply researched, witty, and engaging book offers a fascinating, albeit disturbing, journey into how violent non-state actors are funding their operations in every sector of the global financial system with ever increasing return on investment.” —Frank A. Blazich, Jr., military history curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
“In today’s increasingly interconnected world, the criminal manifestations of unchecked greed impact all of us – politically, socially, culturally, economically. Money is the incentive of illicit, violent, non-state actors. Blood Money is a fascinating exposure of transnational criminality and its exploitation of globalization; it also offers insights to help counter illicit financial flows.” —John Cassara, author and former CIA Case Officer and Treasury Special Agent (retired)
“This book ‘follows the money’ into the dim alleys and swank lobbies of the global illicit economy, revealing in vivid detail how it is entwined with modern conflict. Sankey’s refreshingly jargon-free style makes the book suitable for undergraduates, while the dispassionate and meticulous research will thrill scholars who study Violent Non State Actors (VNSAs). The chapter on art and antiquities is a unique contribution. Sankey concludes with a call for patient, unglamorous cooperation among governments and private sector organizations, as well as between prosperous and developing countries.” —Dr. Karthika Sasikumar, professor, Department of Political Science at San Jose State University, California
"... timely nods to the role that financial networks play in enabling and supporting the work of violent non-state actors, extremist organizations and transnational organized crime. Sankey consistently applies her analysis to real-world case-studies, broadening the readers’ horizons on what financial crime might look like in a practical, day-to-day sense." — Oxford Academic International Affairs

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