Incorporation Transparency

FACT Sheet: Why Beneficial Ownership Transparency Matters

Phantom firms can open bank accounts, wire money, buy property, and transact business like any other company, making them an attractive method for hiding, moving, and using money or other assets. As a result, phantom firms are often misused for a multitude of illegal or unethical activities.

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Global Shell Games: Testing Money Launderers’ and Terrorist Financiers’ Access to Shell Companies

For criminals moving large sums of dirty money internationally, there is no better device than an untraceable shell company. This paper reports the results of an experiment soliciting offers for these prohibited anonymous shell corporations. Our research team impersonated a variety of low- and high-risk customers, including would-be money launderers, corrupt officials, and terrorist financiers when requesting the anonymous companies. Evidence is drawn from more than 7,400 email solicitations to more than 3,700 Corporate Service Providers that make and sell shell companies in 182 countries. The experiment allows us to test whether international rules are actually effective when they mandate that those selling shell companies must collect identity documents from their customers. Shell companies that cannot be traced back to their real owners are one of the most common means for laundering money, giving and receiving bribes, busting sanctions, evading taxes, and financing terrorism.

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