Testimony for the Record: Kenneth A. Blanco, Director, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

May 21, 2019

Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, Members of the Committee, thank you for having me here today to discuss eliminating anonymous shell corporations by collecting beneficial ownership information in order to preserve our national security and protect our people from harm.

A Russian arms dealer nicknamed the “The Merchant of Death,” who sold weapons to a terrorist organization intent on killing Americans. Executives from a supposed investment group that perpetrated a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 8,000 investors, most of them elderly, of over $1 billion. A complex nationwide criminal network that distributed oxycodone by flying young girls and other couriers carrying pills all over the United States. A New York company that was used to conceal Iranian assets, including those designated for providing financial services to entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program. A former college athlete who became the head of a gambling enterprise and a violent drug kingpin who sold recreational drugs and steroids to college and professional football players. A corrupt Venezuelan treasurer who received over $1 billion in bribes.

These crimes are very different, as are the dangers they pose and the damage caused to innocent and unsuspecting people. The defendants and bad actors come from every walk of life and every corner of the globe. The victims—both direct and indirect—include Americans exposed to terrorist acts; elderly people losing life savings; a young mother becoming addicted to opioids; a college athlete coerced to pay extraordinary debts by violent threats; and an entire country driven to devastation by corruption. But all these crimes have one thing in common: shell corporations were used to hide, support, prolong, or foster the crimes and bad acts committed against them. These criminal conspiracies thrived at least in part because the perpetrators could hide their identities and illicit assets behind shell companies. Had beneficial ownership information been available, and more quickly accessible to law enforcement and others, it would have been harder and more costly for the criminals to hide what they were doing. Law enforcement could have been more effective and efficient in preventing these crimes from occurring in the first place, or could have intercepted them sooner and prevented the scope of harm these criminals caused from spreading.