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Anonymous Companies

Tax evaders, terrorists, drugs cartels and corrupt politicians don’t want to keep their dirty money their own names.  So what they typically do is create a company – or a series of companies – and have the company own their assets.  The company can open a bank account, it can buy a yacht or a mansion, and it can wire money around the world.  And, importantly, it’s immensely difficult – sometimes totally impossible – to link the company back to the person who really owns it.  This makes it an attractive method for hiding, moving, and using money or other assets. 

It is quick, easy and cheap to create an anonymous company.  In many countries, there is no public information available on the shareholders and directors of a company – you just simply can’t find out anything on who’s behind a company.  This includes places that people equate with secrecy such as Caribbean islands but also includes places such as the US state of Delaware that are equally secretive. 

Even in places that do make shareholder and director information public, it is still easy to create an anonymous company.  This can be done either by listing another company as the owner or director (and making sure that company is registered somewhere that doesn’t make such information public), or by registering the company in someone else’s name, even that of a total stranger.  Astonishingly, it’s entirely legal to do this in the majority of countries, and there’s an entire profession dedicated to providing such ‘nominee’ services. 

Global Witness is campaigning to know who owns and controls companies and other corporate vehicles, so that they can no longer be used anonymously against the public good.  The campaign is fast-moving:

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Read our in-depth reports:

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Coalitions that we’re part of that work on the issue of anonymous companies