(Washington, DC) Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Joe Wilson (R-SC) today announced the introduction of the bipartisan Establishing New Authorities for Business Laundering and Enabling Risks to Security (ENABLERS) Act – a bill that closes loopholes that kleptocrats from around the world use to launder money in the United States.
As highlighted in the Pandora Papers, dictators, criminals, and terrorists continue to make the United States a destination of choice for hiding illicitly acquired wealth. Because our laws require financial institutions to report suspicious transactions, corrupt actors increasingly rely on other enablers not obligated to conduct such due diligence, including law and public relations firms, investment and real estate advisors, and art dealers, to secure their wealth and disguise its origins, through shell companies, trusts, and other investment vehicles. For example, the Washington Post reported this week that American trust advisors in South Dakota helped a Colombian businessman launder drug money, and two Ecuadorian brothers hide millions stolen from a government bailout in their homeland.
The ENABLERS Act would impose stronger due diligence requirements on such U.S.-based middlemen, to ensure that the United States never again facilitates the corruption and dictatorship we claim to oppose by giving kleptocrats and criminals a safe haven for the money they steal from their people. In turn, it would protect Americans from inflated real estate prices, job loss, human trafficking, and influence peddling.
“If we make banks report dirty money but allow law, real estate, and accounting firms to look the other way, that creates a loophole that crooks and kleptocrats can sail a yacht through,” said Representative Malinowski. “Our bill closes that loophole and encourages the administration to move in the same direction.”
“Dictatorships like the Castro regime in Cuba, the Maduro regime in Venezuela and the Ortega regime in Nicaragua regularly use enablers to facilitate the movement of stolen assets into the United States. These kleptocrats rob their people and undermine democracy. It’s time to crackdown on this manipulation and stand with the victims of corruption who cry out for freedom from this oppression. America must not do business with dictators.” said Representative Salazar (R-FL).
“The Pandora Papers reveal how corruption undermines democracy. All around the world, countries are being looted and the most vulnerable people victimized by their elites. These kleptocrats then launder that money to the West where they enjoy the high life – spending the money on luxury cars, penthouses, jets, and opulent parties. Some also spend it on intervening in our democracy, gaining influence in our politics and elites and working to undermine the rule of law. In order to fight corruption, we must curb the enablers,” said Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN).
“American adversaries ranging from China to Iran to Russia have taken advantage of the U.S. enablers of kleptocracy – unscrupulous lawyers, accountants, and others, to push their dirty money into our system, attempting to undermine our republic from within. If we are serious about fighting dictatorship, we need U.S. professionals to do the most basic due diligence – no American should be accepting money from Chinese Communist Party operatives, Iranian mullahs, Russian oligarchs or others. The ENABLERS Act is a critical national security measure,” said Representative Wilson (R-SC).
Fact sheet and background info here.
Bill text here.
Reps Malinowski, Salazar, Cohen, and Wilson are founding members of the Caucus Against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy, a bipartisan grouping of members of Congress that recently led the successfully passage of several pieces of anti-corruption legislation into the House’s national defense bill, including the Justice for Victims of Kleptocracy Act, the Combating Global Corruption Act, measures to sanction Russian kleptocrats, the Transnational Repression Accountability and Prevention Act, and the Foreign Corruption Accountability Act.