The U.S. is one of the easiest places to set up an anonymous shell company to move ill-gotten gains around the world. It’s also one of the most popular places to do so for the criminal and corrupt. Examples (below, in Global Witness’ The Great Rip Off report, and on this on-line interactive map) show how these anonymously owned companies are what unite all crimes that generate money.
Anonymous companies have been created in the U.S. to carry out questionable or illegal activities that harm our national security, taxpayers, vulnerable populations,businesses, poor countries, and more. A few examples include:
- National Security: The Iranian government used an anonymous New York company to conceal its ownership of a 5th Avenue skyscraper, in direct breach of sanctions.
- Crime: The biggest of Mexico’s drug cartels used an anonymous Oklahoma company in a scheme to launder millions of dollars of drug money into the United States.
- Tax Evasion: Switzerland’s oldest bank, Wegelin, closed in January 2013 after it pleaded guilty to conspiring to help American clients hide more than a billion dollars from the U.S. tax authorities. The bank relied on anonymous companies and foundations incorporated around the world to facilitate this massive tax evasion scheme.
- Dark Money: Anonymous companies have been used to make six-figure contributions to super PACs backing nearly every major presidential candidate this election cycle. Amillion dollar contribution by a pop-up anonymous company to the Romney-backing Restore Our Future PAC spurred groups to request an FEC investigation. And, a 2012 report found that anonymous corporations contributed nearly $17 million to super PACS in 2012, nearly 17% of the total funds raised by businesses for super PACs that election cycle.
The Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act (H.R. 4450 and S. 2489 – House and Senatebill fact sheets) would require all American companies, with a number of exceptions, to disclose the real people who own or control them when they are formed, and to keep that information updated.
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