Maloney Suppresses Money Laundering with Corporate Transparency Act

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and George Venizelos, Retired Assistant Director, NY Division of FBI, at the press conference in front of 650 Fifth Avenue building (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Astoria and Long Island City, parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan) was joined by George Venizelos, Retired Assistant Director of the NY Division of the FBI, to discuss the significance of Maloney’s new Corporate Transparency Act, which will be included in the NDAA for fiscal year 2021.

The act, which Maloney first introduced to combat anonymous shell companies in 2009 (then named the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act), requires companies to disclose their true, beneficial owners at the time that the company is formed. This will work to prevent bad actors from using shell companies to thwart law enforcement and hide illicit activities.

“The U.S. is one of the easiest places in the world to set up anonymous shell companies, because no state in the U.S. currently requires companies to disclose their true, beneficial owners,” said Maloney during Friday’s press conference. “The Corporate Transparency Act will finally crack down on anonymous shell companies, which have become the vehicle of choice for terrorist financing, money laundering, and organized crime. When a terrorist cell wants to move their money, or a criminal syndicate wants to launder money, they usually do it right here in the U.S., with a shell company. So, the same terrorist groups that want to attack the U.S. are also using our own financial system to finance those attacks!”

Maloney made these remarks outside 650 5th Ave., a building that was controlled by Iran in what the DoJ called “the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in U.S. history.” The Alavi Foundation, which owns 60 percent of the 36-story skyscraper, had violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and engaged in money laundering through its partnership with Assa Corporation, which was found to be a shell company for an Iranian state-controlled bank that owned the remaining 40 percent of the building. 

Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of NY, stated that “the owners of 650 Fifth Ave. gave the Iranian government a critical foothold in the very heart of Manhattan through which Iran successfully circumvented U.S. economic sanctions.” He asserted that the building, worth at least $500 million, was forfeitable to the United States as proceeds of violations of the Iran sanctions. The government agreed to distribute said proceeds from the building’s sale to families of victims of terrorism, including the September 11 attacks, in which Iran has been found to have had some culpability. 

Maloney’s new bill seeks to address other cases similar to that of 650 Fifth Ave. “When kleptocrats and criminals pour their money into real estate in New York, that limits the availability of housing, and drives up housing costs for ordinary New Yorkers,” she said. “So, not only will the Corporate Transparency Act make our country safer, but it will also lower housing costs for New Yorkers. This bill is long overdue and I’m proud to say it is finally on the verge of being signed into law.”

[This article was originally posted on our sister site, New York County Politics.]