Under a new plan announced by the Biden administration on Monday, the United States will significantly reinvent ways to fight state corruption to stop illicit financial flows and coordinate efforts across the entire federal government. allocates new resources.
The United States Anti-Corruption Strategy is the product of a six-month executive initiative to “assess the U.S. government’s current efforts to combat corruption and identify and address persistent shortcomings in the fight against corruption.” offer.
The 38-page document makes a stern assessment that developed countries, including the United States, have long created conditions that allow corrupt government officials in developing countries to hide their illicit wealth abroad.
“Renewed research and major journalistic revelations have documented the extent to which legal and regulatory deficiencies in a developed world offer corrupt offshore and illicit money laundering tools,” the document said.
The plan forces the federal government to pursue a five-pillar policy. According to the document, these include “modernizing, coordinating and providing resources to the U.S. government’s anti-corruption efforts; restriction of illegal financing; prosecute corrupt officials; maintaining and strengthening a multi-faceted anti-corruption architecture; improving diplomatic cooperation and the use of foreign aid resources. promotes policy goals. “
Anti-corruption activists are pleased
Leaders of several global anti-corruption organizations said they were surprised by the strength of the language in the new U.S. plan.
In an interview with VOA, Tom Cardamon, president and CEO of Global Financial Integrity, said, “I think anyone who has worked in the fight against corruption at any time is very excited about what the administration has created.” “It looks like a very thoughtful approach to the problem.”
The release marks the first time the U.S. has put forward a national anti-corruption strategy, said Gary Kalman, director of Transparency International’s U.S. office. He said it is particularly important that the Biden administration recognizes the need to coordinate anti-corruption efforts across the entire federal government.
It’s not just one agency saying, “Oh, we have a problem with corruption in a particular corner of the world.” But in reality, corruption has such an impact on what the U.S. government is trying to do that we need a whole government approach, ”Kalman told VOA.
“Finally, the United States seems to have played a leading role here on this truly important issue,” said Liz David-Barrett, director of the Center for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex. “And we really need global leadership.”
Several prominent Republican lawmakers who have proposed anti-corruption bills in the past did not comment on the Biden administration’s proposal when asked by VOA. A large-scale bill on voter rights, corruption, and campaigning financed by Democrats earlier this year failed in the Senate, partly because of Republicans’ opposition to expanding access to ballots. Biden’s anti-corruption strategy does not need congressional support to take effect.
The plan aims to allocate new resources to law enforcement agencies to strengthen anti-corruption operations and create a coordinating body to coordinate anti-corruption work between the State, Treasury and Commerce Departments, as well as the U.S. International Agency. Development (USAID).
The government is also developing new rules that will make it harder to hide the origin of assets and their real owners. This includes the development of new requirements for corporate registration and disclosure of real estate transactions.
The administration also said it would develop rules that would make it harder for “guardians” of the legal financial system, including “lawyers, accountants, trusts and company service providers,” to open the back door to illegal funds.
The plan also promises extensive work to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against corruption, including funding and technical assistance to developing countries struggling with complex financial crimes.
The U.S. is part of the problem
As the administration notes in the facts sheet attached to the plan, “corrupt officials and their accomplices rely on vulnerabilities in the United States and the international financial system to conceal ownership of assets and launder proceeds from illegal activities. As the world’s largest economy, the United States. States have a responsibility to address gaps in our regulatory system and to do the same with our allies and partners. “
David-Barrett stressed the importance of the administration’s role in creating the problem.
In an interview with VOA, he pointed to laws that allow companies to establish their “beneficiary ownership,” that is, without identifying the person or persons who ultimately control them, saying, “The U.S. is a major offshore shelter where you can secretly open companies.”
In addition to closing down specific means of concealing illicit funds, David Barrett said the U.S. has other advantages of cleaning its home.
“This is important in terms of the signal it sends,” he said. “The fact that the U.S. is becoming a major offshore shelter shows that this is an acceptable way to run your business and regulate your business. A tougher U.S. position on this issue will really help change international standards on this issue.”
Linked to the Democracy Summit
It is no coincidence that the administration’s anti-corruption plan was announced on Monday, just days before the White House held a virtual democracy summit with more than 100 other states. The meeting is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to restore the United States’ position as a world leader in democracies.
In The Washington Post, published at the same time as the plan, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and USAID Administrator Samantha Power made the connection clear.
“The meeting is a recognition of the need for a new strategy in the world’s democracies,” they wrote. “Over the last 15 years, the number of people living under authoritarian regimes has increased, and the leaders of many democracies are abandoning basic rights and mutual control and balance. Corruption has made it possible. Autocrats use state resources to protect their interests. . in democracies, corruption robs free societies from within. “