This research guide was produced by the library staff of the Democracy Resource Center. We hope these resources will help you learn about and research kleptocracy. If you have any questions, please email us at drc@ned.org. We’re available 8:00AM – 5:30PM, Monday – Friday.


Kleptocracy is the “rule by thieves” or a “government by people who use their power to steal their country’s resources” (Oxford Dictionaries). While kleptocracy is not a new form of government corruption, current scholarship has been focusing on transnational kleptocracy, complex systems of international corruption which extend beyond the borders of a single nation. This research guide provides resources surrounding the contemporary study of kleptocracy, limiting the scope of the resources to mainly the last decade.

The Rise of Kleptocracy: A Challenge For Democracy, By Christopher Walker & Melissa Aten from the Journal of Democracy (January 2018)


SEARCH terms

The best way to search WorldCat for resources on Kleptocracy is simply searching Kleptocracy. You can also try searching the following LOC subject headings.

su: Money laundering investigation.  |  su: Money laundering prevention.  |  su: Organized crime.  |  su: Political corruption.  |  su: Political corruption Prevention International cooperation.  |  su: Racketeering.

Other keywords for researching kleptocracy: Corrosive capital | Dirty money| Illicit financial flows | Reputation laundering | State capture | Strategic corruption


Recommended books at the DRC. List view: https://ned.on.worldcat.org:443/list/18353520 


(Anti-)Corruption Corpus – An open-source database for exploring comprehensive mapping of scientific literature related to corruption. Updated regularly with articles on kleptocracy. The tool  is designed to facilitate greater access to published research on corruption and anti-corruption. Try searching “kleptocracy”.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Clearinghouse (FCPAC) – Maintained by Stanford Law School, the FCPAC operates as a database, a repository of original source documents, and a supplier of analytics, providing users with detailed information relating to enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Google Scholar – Search Google Scholar for articles on Kleptocracy, 2015 to present. Links to full-text are included to the right of citations.

JSTOR Open-Access – Find open-access reports, journal articles, and book chapters from the academic database JSTOR.

Sharp Power Portal – Created and maintained by the International Forum for Democratic Studies, catalogues research and reporting on authoritarian sharp power. Select Commerce under sector when searching resources on kleptocracy.

Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) – Partnership between the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that supports international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds. Includes a public database https://star.worldbank.org/asset-recovery-watch-database that tracks efforts by prosecution authorities worldwide to go after assets that stem from corruption.

Full list of recommended open-access databases from the DRC: https://www.ned.org/ideas/democracy-research-guide/ejournals-and-articles/

Full-text REPORTS

Channeling the Tide: Protecting Democracies Amid a Flood of Corrosive Capital. Center for International Private Enterprise (2019). Full-text: Open Access

Countering Global Kleptocracy: A New US Strategy for Fighting Authoritarian Corruption, by Nate Sibley & Ben Judah. Hudson Institute (2020). Full-text: Open Access

Dekleptification Guide: Seizing Windows of Opportunity to Dismantle Kleptocracy. USAID (2022). Full-text: Open Access

The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe, by Heather A. Conley, James Mina, Ruslan Stefanov, Martin Vladimirov. Center for Strategic and International Studies & Center for the Study of Democracy (2016). Full-text: Open Access

The Kremlin Playbook 2: The Enablers, by Heather A. Conley, Donatienne Ruy, Ruslan Stefanov, and Martin Vladimirov. Center for Strategic and International Studies & Center for the Study of Democracy (2019). Full-text: Open Access

The Kremlin Playbook 3: Keeping the Faith, by Heather A. Conley and Donatienne Ruy. Center for Strategic and International Studies & Center for the Study of Democracy (2022). Full-text: Open Access

The Kleptocracy Curse: Rethinking Containment, by Ben Judah. Hudson Institute (2016). Full-text: Open Access

The Kleptocrat’s Playbook: A Taxonomy of Domestic and Transnational Tactics. International Republican Institute (2021). Full-text: Open Access

Kleptocratic Adaptation: Anticipating the Next Stage in the Battle Against Transnational Kleptocracy, by Matthew T. Page and Jodi Vittori. International Forum for Democratic Studies (2023). Full-text: Open Access

An Offshore Cold War: Forging a Democratic Alliance to Combat Transnational Kleptocracy, by Oliver Bullough. International Forum for Democratic Studies (2022). Full-text: Open Access

Paying for a world class affiliation : reputation laundering in the university sector of open societies, by Alexander Cooley, Tena Prelec, John Heathershaw, and Tom Mayne. National Endowment for Democracy (2021). Full-text: Open Access

Regaining U.S. Global: Leadership on Anticorruption, by Abigail Bellows. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2020). Full-text: Open Access

Transnational kleptocracy and the COVID-19 pandemic : containing the spread, ed. Melissa Aten. National Endowment for Democracy, (2021). Full-text: Open Access

Turning the Tide on Dirty Money: Why the World’s Democracies Need a Global Kleptocracy Initiative, by Trevor Sutton and Ben Judah. Center for American Progress (2021). Full-text: Open Access

The UK’s kleptocracy problem: How servicing post-Soviet elites weakens the rule of law, by John Heathershaw, Alexander Cooley, Tom Mayne, Casey Michel, Tena Prelec, Jason Sharman and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira. Chatham House (2021). Full-text: Open Access

United States Strategy on Countering Corruption. The White House (2021). Full-text: Open Access

Highlighted Resources

Journal of Democracy, Volume 29, Issue 1, January 2018 – Features the essay collection “The Rise of Kleptocracy” which includes analysis of kleptocracy from many angles.

Walker, Christopher and Melissa Aten. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: A Challenge For Democracy.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 20-24. Full-text: Project Muse OR Open Access

Bullough, Oliver. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: The Dark Side Of Globalization.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 25-38. Full-text: Project Muse

Cooley, Alexander, et al. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: Laundering Cash, Whitewashing Reputations.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 39-53. Full-text: Project Muse OR Open Access

Carter, Brett L. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: Autocrats Versus Activists in Africa.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 54-68. Full-text: Project Muse OR Open Access

Gabriel, Cynthia. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: Malaysia’s Missing Billions.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 69-75. Full-text: Project Muse OR Open Access

Lanskoy, Miriam and Dylan Myles-Primakoff. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: Power and Plunder in Putin’s Russia.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 76-85. Full-text: Project Muse OR  Open Access

Wedeman, Andrew. “The Rise of Kleptocracy: Does China Fit the Model?” Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 1, 2018, p. 86-95. Full-text: Project Muse OR Open Access

ICIJ Investigations – In-depth reporting from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on the Pandora Papers, Panama Papers, FinCEN Files, and other explosive and influential international stories.

Power3Point0 Blog – From the International Forum for Democratic Studies, includes posts written by experts on kleptocracy.

Transparency International Library – Features anticorruption videos, reports, courses and toolkits.


Anti-Corruption Data Collective (ACDC) – Brings together leading journalists, data analysts, academics and policy advocates to expose and undermine corruption.

Anti-Illicit Trade Institute (AITI) – Part of George Mason University’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, AITI brings together international partners from diverse communities to focus on the importance of global illicit trade, while raising awareness of the harms and effects of illicit trade on government institutions, economies, markets, industries, and consumers.

CSCE/U.S. Helsinki Commission – An independent commission of the U.S. Federal Government that contributes to the formulation of U.S. policy on the OSCE, including actively promoting efforts to combat grand corruption. Find anti-kleptocracy initiatives and supported legislation here: https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/anti-kleptocracy-initiatives-supported-helsinki-commission.

Centre for the Study of Corruption (CSC) – Part of the University of Sussex, an interdisciplinary centre of excellence for research, teaching and policy engagement on corruption and anti-corruption.

Corrosive & Constructive Capital Initiative – Initiative of CIPE working to close governance gaps that Corrosive Capital can and often does exploit, so that recipient countries can be more ready to embrace Constructive Capital opportunities and absorb funding with less risk to democracy, institutions, and sovereignty.

Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) – A non-partisan alliance of more than 100 state, national, and international organizations working toward a fair tax system that addresses the challenges of a global economy and promoting policies to combat the harmful impacts of corrupt financial practices.

Finance Uncovered – An investigative journalism training and reporting project.

Global Integrity Anti-Corruption Evidence – Research programme supports 14 research projects around the world generating actionable evidence that policymakers, practitioners, and advocates can use to design and implement more effective anti-corruption initiatives.

Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative – Studies the corrosive threat to American democracy and national security posed by imported corruption and illicit financial flows from authoritarian regimes.

International Coalition Against Illicit Economies (ICAIE) – Brings together diverse champions across sectors and communities, including former members of the public sector, companies and prominent organizations from the private sector and civil society to mobilize energies to combat cross-border illicit threats and protect global security.

Integrity Initiatives International – NGO with mission to strengthen the enforcement of criminal laws to punish and deter leaders who are corrupt and regularly violate human rights, and also to create opportunities for the democratic process to replace them with leaders dedicated to serving their citizens rather than enriching themselves.

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – A U.S.-based nonprofit, both a small, resourceful newsroom with our own reporting team, as well as a global network of reporters and media organizations who work together to investigate the most important stories in the world.

International Forum for Democratic Studies Examining the emergence of transnational kleptocracy and its impact on democracy through discussion, research and analysis.

Opening Central Africa (OCA) – Provides stories about kleptocracy in Central Africa and serves as a call to for action for citizen involvement and a demand for greater scrutiny in their countries.

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)– By developing and equipping a global network of investigative journalists and publishing their stories, OCCRP exposes crime and corruption so the public can hold power to account.

The Sentry – An investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system.

Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) – The first center in the United States devoted to understanding the links among terrorism, transnational crime and corruption, and to teach, research, train, and help formulate policy on these critical issues. TraCCC is a research center within the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Transparency International –  A global movement working in over 100 countries to end the injustice of corruption. Publications https://www.transparency.org/en/publications  include the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) Report and the library https://www.transparency.org/en/library includes videos and toolkits for various sectors.

UNCAC Coalition – A global network of over 350 civil society organisations (CSOs) in over 100 countries, committed to promoting the ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Includes regional platforms for Africa, Euope, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.