The Backstory

Digging in the dirt

A full-body photo of Christian Leuprecht standing in a hallway facing the camera. The people to his left and right walking by are blurred.

Photography by Terry Ratcliffe

My scholarly pursuits are driven by security as the cornerstone of prosperity and democracy,” says Professor Christian Leuprecht, PhD’03, who holds appointments in political studies and the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s. A German immigrant who appreciates the fragility of democracy, he wanted to work in an area that not only allows it to thrive, but also helps solve real problems the world faces. He found it by focusing on national security. 

“Few scholars write about financial crime, even though it’s an outsized challenge for the global economy,” says Prof. Leuprecht. “This is a domestic policy area where Canada could actually have a disproportionate impact on making Canadian communities and the world safer and better for all. But data and information are scarce to make effective policy, so we set about to change that.” 

Supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and a generous donation by Donna Watts, spouse of late Queen’s Principal Ronald L. Watts, Prof. Leuprecht and a team of graduate students and undergraduate research assistants embarked on the onerous work of collecting, coding, and analyzing a wealth of comparative data. Prof. Leuprecht’s book, Dirty Money: Financial Crime in Canada, takes Canada to task for its lacklustre record and half-hearted measures. 

“The prevalence of financial crime in Canada has deleterious consequences on everything from housing prices to drug use and fentanyl overdoses. Walk downtown and witness the impact financial crime has on the social fabric of our communities,” he says. 

Prof. Leuprecht intends for Dirty Money to spark a broader conversation about the many ways the illicit international political economy affects Canadians’ everyday lives. And that conversation needs to be had, he insists, because generating political will at all levels of government depends on voters understanding what’s at stake. 

“Governments really have not made this a priority, in part because it’s seen as a victimless crime,” he says. “For example, extremist nationalism, foreign interference, human trafficking, online child exploitation, sanctions evasion – all thrive on financial crime and, particularly, the drug trade is the single largest driver of financial crime in the world. With drugs come violence and exploitation – real crimes with real victims.”  

As director of Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations (IIGR), Prof. Leuprecht co-edited the volume with Canadian expat Jamie Ferrill, who is Discipline Lead of Financial Crime Studies at Australia’s Charles Sturt University. The 15-chapter book is dedicated to the late Prof. Arthur J. Cockfield, Law’93, with whom Prof. Leuprecht had initially conceived this project. Prof. Cockfield, distinguished Queen’s alumnus, and some of Prof. Leuprecht’s students collaborated on chapters of the book.  

Dirty Money reinvigorates and relaunches the IIGR’s series Canada: The State of the Federation, in partnership with McGill-Queen’s University Press, with five volumes in the works on a range of topics.  

“This book reflects traditional strengths at Queen’s and the IIGR that bolster research capacity and skills development in public policy, public administration, and public management in the context of comparative federalism, federal governance, and multi-level governance,” Prof. Leuprecht explains. “In the process, it lowers the cost of entry for decision-makers and students to raise the level of informed debate and spawn future scholarship.”

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