Report reveals threat to U.S. interests from anonymous shell company owners
September 25th, 2014
September 25th, 2014
“The Great Rip Off” shows range of crimes hidden by companies set up in U.S.
Owners of anonymous companies registered in U.S. states are ripping off innocent people and businesses across America, says a new report by Global Witness. Drawing on 22 cases involving anonymous companies from 27 states, The Great Rip Off shows how fraudsters, mobsters, money-launderers, tax-evaders and corrupt politicians are able to use anonymously-owned American companies to cover their tracks and evade the authorities.
“We looked at all sorts of crimes across the U.S. and found two things in common. They were all carried out by anonymous owners of American companies, and the authorities are spending lots of time and money trying to stop them. These untraceable companies are the getaway cars for criminals – and it’s time to take away the keys,” said Charmian Gooch, Global Witness Director.
The report shows how weak U.S. laws enabled criminals to set up American companies with anonymous owners to rip us all off.
Stealing from the young, the old and the faithful
Enabling drug trafficking, modern slavery and sanctions-busting
Bilking investors, taxpayers and voters
This problem is harming the interests of ordinary Americans, and yet America is one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymously-owned company. In many states, you need less identification to set up a company than you do to get a library card.
“Companies exist for a good reason, to limit liability for investors and encourage entrepreneurs. But this sound principle is being abused by people who have no interest in legitimate business, but in ripping off ordinary people,” said Gooch.
To fix the problem, Global Witness is calling for public registries of the real, living, breathing human behind the company, so businesses know who they are dealing with and law enforcement can stop many crimes at the source. Gooch, and the campaign, were awarded this year’s TED Prize and she has just been named as one of Bloomberg Markets’ 50 Most Influential.
“This is an issue whose time has come. Change is already happening – the UK is taking concrete steps, and we expect to see movement in the EU soon. But the U.S. is lagging behind – which is bad news because this is where so many of the world’s anonymous companies are set up. The report we’ve released today shows how much damage this is doing to U.S. interests and security,” said Gooch.
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