Washington, DC — On the eve of a mark-up in US Congress of a major counter terrorism finance bill, the international anti-corruption organization Global Witness is decrying a last minute move to strip the bill of a key measure that would have helped put an end to anonymous companies – the ubiquitous financial getaways cars used around the world by bad actors looking to hide their suspect funds.
“Criminals and corrupt officials around the world will be cheering Congressional Republicans this week. The facts are clear: terrorists, corrupt politicians and gangsters use anonymous companies to launder their cash and threaten the US’s national security. Instead of tackling this challenge head on, House Republicans have introduced a bill that could weaken US anti-money laundering efforts for years to come” said Mark Hays, Anti-Money Laundering Team Leader at Global Witness.
In the last two years support for beneficial ownership transparency has grown exponentially. Law enforcement organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association support this move. So do major financial services organizations representing banks large and small, from the Clearing House to the Independent Community Bankers of America. The CEOs of Dow Chemical, Unilever, Salesforce, Allianz, Virgin, the Kering Group have endorsed this step as well. And, a host of anti-corruption organizations, human rights groups, small business voices, national security experts and many others are also in support of this important transparency measure.
Originally, the Counter Terrorism and Illicit Finance Act (H.R. 6068), introduced in draft form late last year, included a provision that would require companies formed in the US to disclose their real beneficial owners to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Anti-money laundering authorities have consistently named this requirement as the critical missing piece of US efforts to combat the money laundering that fuels or facilitates all manner of criminal activity, from human trafficking to the opioid epidemic and much more. The bipartisan provision would have been a good first step towards providing the information sorely needed to monitor and investigate this type of criminal activity here in the US and around the world.
However, the new draft of the legislation eliminates this beneficial ownership provision entirely, and includes provisions that would actually weaken existing measures used to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
“As the rest of the world moves ahead with vital tools to crack down on the criminal and corrupt, the House Republicans’ failure to act lets money launders know that the US is open for business, whoever you are,” said Hays.
About Global Witness
Global Witness wants a better world — where corruption is challenged and accountability prevails, all can thrive within the planet’s boundaries, and governments act in the public interest. Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system. Global Witness is campaigning to end this. We carry out hard-hitting investigations, expose the facts, and push for change. We are independent, not-for-profit, and work with partners around the world in our fight for justice.
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