By Stefanie Ostfeld, August 25, 2014
Four Delaware Citizens Publish Letters in The News Journal of Delaware Urging their Congressional Delegation to Curb Anonymous Company Abuse
Our campaign to stop criminals using anonymous companies to cover their tracks is getting traction in some unexpected places.
Last month we wrote about how politicians in Delaware were starting to speak out about their state’s role as a corporate secrecy haven. Half of the state legislators had sent a letter to the Delaware Congressional Delegation, urging them to support bipartisan federal legislation introduced by Senators Levin (MI-D) and Grassley (IA-R) to deal with anonymous companies.
A few weeks ago we were invited to speak about this issue at a community forum organized by the Delaware chapters of Americans for Democratic Action and the National Association of Social Workers. I was on a panel with two Delaware state legislators, the head of a local social justice organization and the Deputy Secretary of State of Delaware.
Now we’re starting to see ordinary citizens from Delaware speak out as well. This week there have been a number of letters to the editor in the Delaware News Journal.
By Grace Zhao, August 22, 2014
U.S. Laws Enable the Outflow of Illicit Money from China, which Totaled US$1.08 Trillion from 2002 to 2011
Corrupt politicians, fugitive officials, and leaders on the lam have found a new safe haven to call home—the United States of America.
Interestingly enough, despite the sometimes contentious relationship between the two countries, the U.S. has now become the destination of choice for China’s “economic fugitives” running from corruption charges in their home country according to China Daily and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Many of these fugitives are known as “naked officials”, those who have moved their assets and family abroad to avoid regulations and scrutiny. Much of the time, these are high ranking leaders who have decided to move their wealth abroad should a corruption investigation arise.
By Max Heywood, August 12, 2014
Lionel Messi’s Tax Troubles Should Increase Pressure on Politicians to Curb the Abuse of Anonymous Companies
The ongoing prosecution of football super star Lionel Messi for alleged tax evasion made global headlines last week. Messi and his father Jorge are accused of evading 4.2 million euros (US$5.6m) in tax on sponsorship earnings in court documents submitted by the prosecutor.
The alleged tax evasion scheme was based on using a web of anonymous shell companies registered in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay, as highlighted by our colleagues at Global Witness. These shell companies were linked to other anonymous companies in what the prosecutor calls “convenience jurisdictions” such as the UK and Switzerland.
By Mark Hays, July 25, 2014
Half of Delaware’s State Legislators Urge their Congressional Delegation to Support the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act
Last November, a former special agent for the Treasury Department, John Cassara, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times with the headline “Delaware, Den of Thieves?” Cassara described how the state of Delaware (along with Wyoming and Nevada) has become “nearly synonymous with underground financing, tax evasion and other bad deeds facilitated by anonymous shell companies”. He told of his frustration as a law enforcement officer trying to get information out of Delaware about the real owners and controllers of companies registered in the state.
This week, a debate has started in Delaware about its role as a corporate secrecy haven. One-half of the members of the Delaware State Legislaturehave sent a letter to the Delaware Congressional Delegation, urging them to support bipartisan federal legislation introduced by Senators Levin (MI-D) and Grassley (IA-R) to deal with anonymous companies.
To understand why this is such a big deal, it’s important to understand the extent to which Delaware is a global hub for company formation. More than 1 million companies are incorporated in Delaware, which is more than the actual number of living residents. That number includes 50% of all publicly-traded companies in the U.S. and 64% of the Fortune 500. This is no accident; Delaware law grants attractive tax arrangements and other measures that attract businesses to incorporate there. These measures have paid off – in 2011 alone, Delaware collected roughly $860 million in taxes and fees from these companies – about a quarter of the state’s total budget.
By Grace Zhao, July 24, 2014
Any Effective Effort to Save Rhinos, Tigers, and Pandas from Extinction Must Tackle the Anonymous Companies that Propel the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Wildlife trafficking is more than illegally killing exotic animals; it is part of a complex criminal network that makes use of anonymous companies to illegally transfer both goods and money.
The illegal wildlife trade consists of the poaching, sale, and trade of exotic wildlife. Animals are used for food, medicine, commercial products, and even as pets. The illegal trade hosts a bevy of clientele in both developing and developed countries.
We probably all know that wildlife trafficking can be grisly and disturbing. Rhino horns are hacked off, turtles are stuffed into suitcases, and bear gall bladders are milked from living animals. The impact on biodiversity is astounding. According to our 2011 report, Transnational Crime in the Developing World, only 500,000 elephants exist today compared to a population of 1.2 million in the 1970s. The world’s tiger population has plummeted to just 3,200—down 95 percent since 1900, and an entire species of Rhino went extinct in 2009.
By Grace Zhao, July 14, 2014
Don’t get too excited about Kenya’s removal from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) gray list.
The FATF list of “high risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions” is a list of countries that the organization believes to be doing very little in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The list is based off a series of 40 recommendations that it expects countries to abide by to reduce money laundering and terrorist financing. These recommendations include, among other things, the regulation of banks and other financial institutions. Countries that do not adequately address these expectations are placed on the black or gray list based on varying degrees of compliance.
In 2010, FATF placed Kenya on a list of high risk countries for delays in enacting laws to tackle criminal financial activity as well as a failure to track money laundering.
By Cobus de Swardt, July 9, 2014
Curbing Cross-Border Corruption via Anonymous Companies Should Be a Priority for Global Leaders in 2014, Says Transparency International’s Cobus de Swardt
Corruption around the world is facilitated by the ability to launder and hide proceeds derived from the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals. Dirty money enters the financial system and is given the semblance of originating from a legitimate source often by using corporate vehicles offering disguise, concealment and anonymity. For example, corrupt politicians used secret companies to obscure their identity in 70 percent of more than 200 cases of grand corruption survey by the World Bank.
For far too long, corrupt figures have been able to easily stash the proceeds of corruption in foreign banks or to invest them in luxurious mansions, expensive cars or lavish lifestyles. They do this with impunity and in blatant disregard for the citizens or customers they are supposed to serve.
Importantly, the corrupt are aided by complacent and sometimes complicit governments of countries with banking centers that facilitate money laundering and allow the corrupt to cross their borders to enjoy stolen wealth. Weak government actions are failing to prevent the corrupt from evading justice and have enabled cross-border transfers of corrupt assets. Complacent governments responsible for protecting the public from such criminal acts are de facto supporting impunity for corruption.
By Grace Zhao, July 8, 2014
Kleptocrats and criminals are always looking for new ways to properly launder their illicit wealth, and it now appears that many of them are turning to Manhattan real estate.
Unsavory investors are increasingly purchasing New York City flats in an attempt to squirrel away ill-gotten funds or dodge billions of dollars in taxes, according to an in depth investigation by New York Magazine and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Some might even say that New York City itself is becoming a sort of tax haven.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, 30 percent of all condo sales in the city were purchased through foreign entities—many of them anonymous shell companies—yet much of the purchased property remains vacant. The census bureau estimates that 30 percent of the apartments from 49th to 70th streets and between Fifth and Park Avenues in New York City are empty for up to 10 months of the year.