Russian oligarchs, fearing confiscation of billions if they cross Vladimir Putin, apparently love to hide their assets in the United States. It’s a bitter irony of the global financial system: Money made by illegal conduct in one country can best be protected by the rule of law in another.
The key to avoiding accountability is secrecy.
Research shows that the U.S. is one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymous shell company. According to a 2019 report by Global Financial Integrity, many states required more information to obtain a library card than to register a company that can be used for laundering money. A law passed by Congress in 2021, the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), aimed to change this. But it won’t succeed without all parties involved in combating money laundering — law enforcement, U.S. regulators and banks — trusting and using the new systems now under development.