UN urged to end abuses of anonymous shell companies

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — More than 20 organizations and several economists urged the U.N. General Assembly on International Anti-Corruption Day on Wednesday to put an end to abuses by anonymous shell companies that cover up financial crimes.

They said in a letter that scandal after scandal over decades has demonstrated that “anonymous shell companies have been used to divert public funds, channel bribes and conceal ill-gotten gains, as part of corruption and money laundering schemes stretching across borders.”

The organizations and economists said the decision by the 193-member world body to hold a special session on fighting corruption next June provides “a historic opportunity … to put an end to the abuse of anonymous companies and other legal vehicles that facilitate cross-border corruption and other crimes.”

The signatories said the best way to do this is for the General Assembly to establish “a central public register of companies and their ultimate beneficial owners, in addition to information on legal ownership and directors.” This information would enable “cross-border enforcement and the tracing of ill-gotten assets for confiscation and return,” they said.

The letter’s signatories include Article 19, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, International Trade Union Confederation, Oxfam, Tax Justice Network, Trade Union Advisory Council to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Transparency and Anti-Corruption, and economists Gabriel Zucman from the University of California Berkeley and Thomas Piketty from the Paris School of Economics.

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