Panama Papers – Presidential Candidates Urged to Address Secret Companies
As Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders prepare for their debate tonight, Global Witness is calling on all Presidential candidates to publicly address the widespread problem of secret companies in the U.S. and corruption exposed in the Panama Papers and outline their own plans for reform.
This call for action comes as a week of anti-corruption organizing activity in Washington, DC, concludes. Over 70 representatives from across 25 states and the political spectrum, from law enforcement to small business owners and faith leaders, were in the capital this week meeting with House and Senate members demanding that the US government take action to address tax havens, corporate secrecy and anonymous shell companies.
In the thick of the Panama Papers exposé, their message is that unless Congress ends anonymity and embraces transparency soon, the US will remain an attractive destination for tax evaders, sanctions busters, terrorist financiers and money launders.
Gillian Caldwell, CEO of Global Witness, outlined the problem in a recent New York Times Room for Debate piece:
But this isn’t just about sunny tax havens — much of this crime happens on our own shores. In fact, the United States is one of the easiest places to set up an untraceable company without breaking the law, and a favorite destination for corrupt politicians to squirrel away their cash. Anonymously owned American companies threaten our economy, national security and tax dollars. For example, until 2013 the Iranian government used an anonymous New York company to conceal its ownership of a Fifth Avenue skyscraper, in breach of sanctions.
Global Witness and others are also calling on Congress to enact bipartisan legislation that will help tackle the problem of anonymously-owned shell companies. By requiring updated disclosures about the real people who own or control American companies, law enforcement will have critical information that they need to combat all types of criminal activities.
The Obama Administration is also preparing for an anti-corruption summit hosted by the United Kingdom on May 12 in London where global leaders aim to agree to common solutions to the global corruption crisis. This is an important opportunity for the Administration to take the following critical actions:
Require the real estate and luxury goods sectors to perform anti-money laundering checks to keep politicians who favor the US as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains from enjoying their fast cars, boats and planes, and big houses in our backyard.