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There is an old joke about a drunkard searching for his keys under a streetlight. A passerby stops to help. After a few minutes of failing to find them, he asks the drunkard if he is sure that this is where he lost them. “No,” the drunkard replies, “but it’s dark everywhere else.”

That is how humans approach many daunting tasks, not least of them writing about corruption. We know that it’s a problem, we know that it’s serious, but we are reduced to hunting for evidence in the light cast by the few countries willing and able to prosecute the crime. Darkness stretches all around: we are missing out on a whole world of evidence that remains completely obscure.

In a speech he delivered in 1996, James Wolfensohn, then president of the World Bank, likened corruption to cancer. “Corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich,

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