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Citing Panama Papers, Warren announces plan to fight global corruption

The Democratic presidential hopeful pledged new laws to stamp out shell companies, and also planned to increase global collaboration to fight tax evasion.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic candidate for the United States 2020 presidential election, has announced a suite of policies aimed at ending global corruption, and cited the Panama Papers investigation as a key reference point for the plan.

In a statement on Tuesday the Massachusetts senator pledged to introduce laws to collect standardized information on the real owners of shell companies around the U.S., and also said she would aim to increase collaboration between governments to combat tax evasion and financial secrecy. According to transparency advocates Jubilee USA, the U.S. is the second-easiest country in the world after Kenya to open a shell company.

Warren’s plan referenced multiple high-profile revelations from the Panama Papers that involved “shell” companies – businesses that exist only on paper.

She highlighted the hidden networks of wealth linked to Vladimir Putin, the offshore assets of family members of the ruling elite in China and Pakistan, and also mentioned tax evasion by soccer superstar Lionel Messi, as well as a number of instances of high-level corruption that extended beyond the Panama Papers revelations.

“What all these cases have in common is the use of legal loopholes and shadowy financial middlemen to obscure assets, or in some cases the proceeds of criminal activity, from law enforcement and government oversight,” Warren wrote.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Süddeutsche Zeitung and 90 media organizations published the Panama Papers investigation in April 2016. The exposé was based on more than 11. 5 million leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca, an offshore law firm founded in Panama that helped heads of state, criminals and celebrities use secret financial hideaways.

Warren is the first leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination to reference the Panama Papers in campaign material, however other candidates, including Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, have released policy statements that pledge to restrict shell companies and fight tax evasion and money laundering.

“This is another indication of the growing bipartisan momentum behind ending anonymous shell companies in the U.S.,” said Clark Gascoigne, Deputy Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition. In October, a bill to end anonymous U.S. companies passed the House of Representatives with the support of the White House.

Warren also highlighted the victims of financial secrecy and corporate wrongdoing in her announcement.

“Shell corporations, complex money laundering schemes, and inadequate international financial controls enable nuclear proliferation, terrorism, drug and human trafficking, and tax avoidance,” Warren wrote. “All are major threats to our security, our democracy, and our way of life.”

Sen. Warren said that her administration would expand bribery laws to make it harder for the proceeds of foreign graft to enter the U.S banking system, and would also help countries root out financial crime and collaborate across borders to end tax evasion.

Reflecting reports, including in the Panama Papers, that politicians and bagmen and women use corrupt cash to buy property in U.S. hotspots like New York City, Miami and Los Angeles, Warren said she would force banks and other institutions to file more information on high-risk home purchases.

Warren also promised tougher action on bankers, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and other intermediaries “who bridge the divide between the dark economy and the clean one.”

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