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ICYMI – Shaheen, Senators Urge Financial Action Task Force to Bolster Transparency to Defend Against Kleptocracy

Senators encourage FATF to strengthen weak standards on beneficial ownership of trusts, shore up financial defenses against kleptocracy and criminality.

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, recently joined U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, on a bipartisan letter with 10 Senators to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the intergovernmental body that sets international anti-money laundering standards, calling on FATF to improve their latest beneficial ownership transparency proposal governing trusts and similar legal arrangements. These legal arrangements have been used to hide and move illicit assets by Russian oligarchs, drug cartels and human traffickers.

“The international order built on democracy, free markets, and the rule-of-law is under assault from autocracy, kleptocracy, and criminality. This assault has been fueled by opaque legal structures—such as anonymous trusts and other similar legal arrangements—created by the rule-of-law world, which provide sanctuary for the stolen wealth of the world’s worst actors,” wrote the Senators.

“There is a straightforward antidote to this opacity: transparency, and we encourage the Financial Action Task Force to strengthen the transparency aspects of this proposal,” continued the Senators. “Specifically, we encourage you to strengthen the proposal—in line with last year’s revisions to Recommendation 24 on the beneficial ownership of legal persons—by mandating that all trusts and similar legal arrangements register their beneficial ownership information with a central, public authority,” added the Senators.

Joining Shaheen and Whitehouse on the bipartisan letter are Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  The Senators’ letter was sent in advance of a meeting of FATF members in Paris, which is currently underway, to discuss revisions to the proposal.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here.

Shaheen is a leader in the U.S. Senate on cracking down on Russian kleptocracy, which is financing Russia’s war in Ukraine, and serves as a commissioner on the Helsinki Commission. Last April, Shaheen questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland about interagency efforts and international cooperation to counter Russian kleptocracy. Shaheen asked for details around progress made by Task Force KleptoCapture, which launched nearly a year ago to enforce sanctions and countermeasures imposed by the U.S. and our allies in response to Russia’s sweeping war. Garland discussed the close coordination with international partners to prosecute violations of sanctions and seize assets belonging to sanctioned individuals. Senator Shaheen has led efforts to hold Russia accountable for its aggression through her role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Shaheen was sanctioned by the Kremlin in 2017 for her outspoken criticism against Russia.