New project spotlight: Corruption in Paradise

How is illicit finance affecting the housing market in cities, what can cities do to challenge illicit financial flows that are affecting their real estate markets and what is the role of real estate agents in this?

While these are typically questions thought of in global financial centres – think London, Paris or Hong Kong – these are increasingly becoming questions for cities that are regional hubs for illicit finance. These regional hubs are facing similar challenges in terms of the rapid development and purchase of hotels, casinos and other buildings funded through illicit finance, with consequences for housing, social and urban development policies.

This project looks into six of those hubs, one of which is a business and one which is a leisure destination in each country: Sao Paulo City and Santa Catarina State Northern Coast in Brazil, Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, and Jakarta and Bali province in Indonesia.

CiFAR is the partner in the project responsible for activities in Kenya.

Objectives of the project

The project has several objectives:

  • Investigate how six tourism-focused cities in Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia address IFF (illicit financial flows) in real estate through the lens of real estate agents.
  • Collect data on existing codes, rules, regulations.
  • Apply an ecosystemic approach: value chain, stakeholder networks, and incentives.
  • Assess the potential of existing policy options.
  • Add actionable knowledge on corruption and money laundering risks in fast-growing urban areas.
  • Draw conclusions for policy and legal reforms.

Organisations involved

The project is led by the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), in particular the Public Integrity Research Group (GRIP). Partners in addition to CiFAR are: Getulio Vargas Foundation — Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (Brazil) and the National Institute of Public Administration (Indonesia).

Funding and duration

This project is supported through the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s GI-ACE grant programme.

The project is for three years, from 2024 – 2026.

Contact at CiFAR

Jackson Oldfield,