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House Financial Services Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters listens during a hearing with leaders of major banks on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. © 2019 AP Images

(Washington, DC) – The United States Congress should pass a proposed law that would provide law enforcement a crucial tool for stemming corruption and advancing human rights, 10 human rights organizations said in a letter to members of Congress today. Although it has yet to be formally introduced, a draft of the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019 was the subject of a House Financial Services Committee hearing on March 13 and will be discussed at a congressional briefing on Friday. The bill would require American companies to disclose information about the actual people who own or control them, making it harder for corrupt foreign officials to register businesses anonymously, to hide ill-gotten gains, and to escape legal accountability.

The organizations are Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Global Witness, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, International Labor Rights Forum, EarthRights International, EG Justice, and Enough Project.

Corruption poses a serious challenge to human rights in many countries. The loss of resources undermines a government’s ability to invest in health, education, housing, and other basic rights. Corrupt officials frequently target transparency advocates, journalists, and others who they fear will expose their crimes and they abuse the criminal justice system to punish their critics and protect themselves from prosecution.

“Allowing businesses to move millions of dollars without anyone knowing who owns them is a gift to corrupt foreign officials looking to launder dirty money,” said Sarah Saadoun, business researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The US Congress should pass this bill to drive money launderers out of the shadows and help restore the money they stole to the public to whom it belongs.”

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