Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the U.S. Courthouse in Washington on 30 October 2017. Photo: Zach Gibson / Bloomberg

By Casey Michel
31 October 2017

(The Washington Post) – Off all the information contained in yesterday’s bombshell indictment of Paul Manafort, one significant fact has gone unremarked. According to the indictment, Manafort was linked to nearly a dozen limited liability companies (LLCs) that helped to funnel cash from accounts in places like Cyprus and the Seychelles. Notably, though, these LLCs weren’t based in traditional offshore havens like Panama or the British Virgin Islands. Instead they were in Washington’s backyard, in states like Delaware, Virginia, and Florida. Little noticed by most Americans, the United States has become one of the world’s leading offshore havens.

In so doing, Manafort joined others who have used U.S.-based shell companies, like Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s dictator, who presided over assets allegedly running into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and including Michael Jackson’s crystal-studded glove — while the vast majority of his country’s populace remain among the poorest in Africa. Another member of the club: Viktor Bout, the so-called Russian Merchant of Death, whose arms transports reportedly buried an untold number of bodies in Angola and Liberia. Then there’s former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who, at one point, earned a spot on Transparency International’s list of top-10 wealthiest corrupt officials internationally. All three have been known to use U.S. shell companies to store funds or purchase real estate.

A few years ago, people in the market for financial opacity would have set up shop in more traditional secrecy havens, from Switzerland to Belize. Places that had little oversight and promised to pose fewer questions, and that prioritized security over self-identification. Places that the United States has now challenged — or surpassed — when it comes to financial secrecy.

Led by state legislatures in places like Delaware, Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota, the United States has joined in an international race to the bottom when it comes to financial secrecy, either in the form of shell companies or trusts as opaque as they are expansive. And that has drawn the attention of corrupt leaders from around the world, who are always in search of new places to squirrel away their wealth from prying eyes (and their own impoverished citizens).

Indeed, the United States’ recent anti-kleptocracy drives — campaigns that have captured or frozen billions in stolen monies — have been undercut, and in certain respects undone, by America’s transformation into a global financial secrecy center. The United State provides the perfect combination of security and anonymity. It boasts an independent court system, local authorities willing to turn a blind eye to one’s business — and an executive branch whose head has profited handsomely from the cloak of secrecy surrounding the real estate sector.

U.S. shell company providers are notably unwilling to collect the most basic information about those setting up American shell companies. According to a 2014 study, U.S. company service providers turned out to be worse than any other country surveyed when it came to transparency compliance. Small wonder that Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm that helped clients set up shell companies — many of which were later exposed in the Panama Papers — specifically hawked Wyoming and Nevada to its clients. [more]

Charges against Manafort throw light on America’s secret financial havens


  1. Dennis Mitchell said...

    I guess if we are going to be a third world country, we should act like one. Pretty soon we will find ourselves bribing officials to keep from having our belongings confiscated.


Blog Template by Adam Every . Sponsored by Business Web Hosting Reviews