WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss, a ranking member on the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. in introducing bipartisan legislation to guard against kleptocrats and criminals exploiting American professionals to carry out financial crimes in the United States. The bipartisan group of senators offered the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill set for consideration in the Senate later this year.
The senators’ Establishing New Authorities for Businesses Laundering and Enabling Risks to Security (ENABLERS) Act would strengthen federal due diligence and transparency requirements to include certain American professionals – such as investment advisors, attorneys, and accountants – who are often exploited to hide illicit money or carry out financial crimes. Representatives Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., Maria Salazar, R-Fla., Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Richard Hudson, R-N.C., attached similar legislation to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
“Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine has exposed the deep reach of oligarchs and kleptocrats who have used their wealth and influence to drive global conflict,” Wicker said. “The United States should be doing everything within reason to root out this corruption and keep foreign bad actors from exploiting our financial system. This legislation would put that abuse in the crosshairs by requiring greater transparency in certain industries to help protect our country.”
“America is in a clash of civilizations against kleptocrats and criminals who exploit our laws and financial system right under our nose. We must take every precaution to prevent adversaries from hiding loot within our borders,” said Whitehouse. “This bipartisan measure would require basic transparency in a number of professions that bad actors seek out to hide their ill-gotten gains. We already expect that kind of transparency from many institutions, like our banking system. I’m pleased we’ve arrived at a sensible, bipartisan solution to address this threat.”
Some of the world’s most corrupt individuals – including high-ranking oligarchs in Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime – have stowed enormous amounts of money in rule-of-law countries like the U.S. Their schemes often deploy intricate financial transactions and shell corporations, including those incorporated in American states—methods that would not be possible without assistance from Western professionals, including certain Americans. Several journalistic exposés—like the Pandora Papers, which was released one year ago today—have shown how easy it is for kleptocratic regimes, drug cartels, and other bad actors to hide illicit funds in the United States with the help of American professionals.
According to a report by the investigative organization Sentry, the U.S. is among the last 10 percent of countries not to have implemented the necessary transparency and due diligence solutions included in the ENABLERS Act, and – as the U.S. Department of the Treasury has acknowledged – America is currently one of the best places in the world to “hide and launder ill-gotten gains.”
Read the bill text here.