The dangers in fighting grand corruption are substantial because the stakes are huge, and its principal beneficiaries have great power. When you threaten to expose or dismantle a system of grand corruption, the threatened officials have at least three ways to fight back: they can hobble your efforts by limiting your authority or resources; they can remove you and your allies, installing their dependents in your place; or they can destroy the institution entirely. Well-managed independence in all three spheres - the legal, the personal and the public spheres - is your defence against each of these tactics, making clear the futility of any such attack, so that even your most senior suspects recognise that cooperation is their best option.

This paper explores what success in each of these spheres entails and why it can be so elusive, drawing heavily on recent experience in Malawi, where one of the authors is currently Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Part of the Chandler Papers. Read more about the Chandler Sessions on Integrity and Corruption.