Understanding Corruption

How Corruption Works in Practice

Robert Barrington, Elizabeth David-Barrett, Sam Power, Dan Hough

£65.00  |  $95.00
ISBN 9781788214438
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788214445
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788214452
280 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  03 March 2022


"A generation’s research and reform experiences have taught us much about corruption, its consequences, and possible approaches to control, but much of that knowledge is scattered across many sources and discussions. Understanding Corruption offers a valuable overview and synthesis of what we do – and do not – know, examining major trends in thought and practice while carefully dissecting a variety of cases. It is an essential work for students and teaching, and will help guide the research and debates to come." – Michael Johnston, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Colgate University, USA

"This is an important and original book, laying out what corruption is, how it works, and how it should be tackled. I wish it had existed when I was a student." – Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland: How Thieves & Crooks Now Rule the World & How to Take It Back

"The book leads the reader on a tour around the world to describe in a simple and clear way how corruption operates in practice. The collection of case studies shows that corruption is a global, complex, and context-sensitive phenomenon that does not allow for one-fits-all solutions. Excellent teaching material." – Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair, Transparency International

"Almost 30 years since anti-corruption became part of the global development agenda this is a crucial collection of essays exploring and deepening understanding about the multitude of ways corruption continues to impact lives across the planet; and how corruption itself has morphed over the decades. Essential reading."  – John Githongo, The Elephant and CEO, Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi!

"This book with its deceptively simple title offers readers a rich variety of case-study material that sets out very clearly why those of us working in the anti-corruption field – whether policy-makers, practitioners or academics – need to go beyond existing assumptions about what corruption is, why it happens and then what to do about it. By being more open and more consistent in our diagnosis of the problem, the volume shows how this can help us better think about both the potential benefits and the potential harms of various strategies and interventions, and why this matters." – Heather Marquette, Professor of Development Politics, and Director of the Serious Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Evidence research programme, University of Birmingham

"Understanding Corruption illuminates the corruption problem in its many different manifestations covering, importantly, not only the more commonly understood phenomenon of bribery, but also the more complex forms such as political corruption or state capture. The case study approach of the book makes it a fascinating read for both veterans and new entrants to the anti-corruption world." – Gretta Fenner, Basel Institute on Governance

"The contributors are all current faculty members or recent students at the Centre for the Study of Corruption (CSC). Such a concentration of expertise underpins CSC’s status as the UK’s foremost centre of academic research on the topic of corruption." – Paul Heywood, Professor of European Politics, University of Nottingham

"This book uses a storytelling approach to explain complex corruption cases, making it an easy read. Not only does it show how corruption occurs, but it also exposes the reader to different approaches to tackling corruption. I liked that the book identified the victims in each case. Using case studies is a brilliant way to increase the understanding of corruption which is necessary for motivating people to act against it. I highly recommend this book." – Onyinye Ough, Executive Director, Step Up Nigeria


Corruption takes many different forms and the systems that enable it are complex and challenging. To best understand corruption, one needs to examine how it operates in practice. Understanding Corruption tells the story of how corruption happens in the real world, illustrated through detailed case studies of the many different types of corruption that span the globe. Each case study follows a tried and tested analytical approach that provides key insights into the workings of corruption and the measures best used to tackle it. The case studies examined include examples of corporate bribery, political corruption, facilitation payments, cronyism, state capture, kleptocracy, asset recovery, offshore secrecy, reputation laundering and unexplained wealth, and actors include businesses, governments, politicians, governing bodies and public servants.


1. Corruption in theory and practice – Dan Hough

Part I Bribery
2. A world tour of bribery – Robert Barrington
3. Bribery case studies
3.1 Alstom and corporate bribery – Tom Shipley
3.2 Odebrecht, corporate bribery and political corruption – Francis McGowan
3.3 Panalpina and facilitation payments – Tom Shipley
3.4 Petty bribes in the developed world – Robert Barrington
4. Learning from bribery case studies – Robert Barrington

Part II Political Corruption
5. How to make friends, spend money and influence politics – Sam Power
6. Political corruption case studies
6.1 The Council of Europe and Azerbaijan: corruption in parliament – Roxana Bratu
6.2 Darleen Druyun, the defence sector, and the revolving door – Tom Shipley
6.3 Jacques Chirac and French politics – Liljana Cvetanoska
6.4 Jack Abramoff and the US lobbying industry – Tena Prelec
7. Learning from political corruption case studies – Sam Power

Part III Kleptocracy and State Capture
8. Accumulating money and power – Elizabeth David-Barrett
9. Kleptocracy and state capture case studies
9.1 Angola and the Dos Santos regime – Tom Shipley
9.2 Erdogan and cronyism in Turkey – Tena Prelec
9.3 Najib Razak and 1MDB in Malaysia: fraud and corruption – Shahrzad Fouladvand
9.4 The Guptas and state capture in South Africa – Tena Prelec
9.5 FIFA: kleptocracy and capture outside politics – Robert Barrington
10. Learning from kleptocracy and state capture case studies – Elizabeth David-Barrett

Part IV Corrupt Capital
11. The secret world of corrupt capital – Robert Barrington
12. Corrupt capital case studies
12.1 Teodorin Obiang and asset recovery – Tena Prelec and Georgia Garrod
12.2 The Panama Papers and offshore secrecy – Ben Cowdock
12.3 Bell Pottinger and reputation laundering in South Africa - Ben Cowdock
12.4 Zamira Hajiyeva and unexplained wealth – Ben Cowdock
12.5 Professional enablers in London – Ben Cowdock
13. Learning from corrupt capital case studies – Robert Barrington

Part V Conclusion
14. Understanding Corruption – Dan Hough and Elizabeth David-Barrett

Author Information

Robert Barrington is Professor of Anti-Corruption Practice in the Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex.

Elizabeth David-Barrett is Professor of Governance and Integrity and Director of the Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex.

Sam Power is Lecturer in Corruption Analysis in the Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex.

Dan Hough is Professor of Politics at the University of Sussex. He has been a consultant on corruption and anti-corruption issues for the UK government, the Saudi Arabian anti-corruption commission, and the South Korean anti-corruption commission.

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