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Hearing Of The Permanent Subcommittee On Investigations Of The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs - Keeping Foreign Corruption Out Of The United States: Four Case Histories

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

I would like to thank Sen. Levin for holding this hearing today. For years, he has diligently
investigated how foreign officials use American institutions to hide corrupt money in our
country. Today's hearing exposes weaknesses in our current system that allows this to happen.
Americans expect much of their government leaders, and depend on a robust legal system to root
out corruption wherever it is found. While they system is not perfect, we know that if federal
officials break the law they will be caught and punished.
In other countries, the citizens are not so lucky. Heads of state are not accountable to the people
and corruption is the way of doing business.
The report shows what can happen when foreign leaders grab hold of their nation's wealth and
use it for personal gain. Millions--if not hundreds of millions--of dollars were routed directly
from the countries' treasuries into the leaders' pockets.
People like Omar Bongo used his country's money to feed a wildly lavish lifestyle, while his
citizens suffered. Using the wealth of Gabon, an impoverished nation, he attempted to purchase
properties, vehicles and aircraft stashed all over the world. Unfortunately, he and others were
aided in this effort by American professionals and institutions.
Our most important task today is deciding how we respond. America should never be the
mattress corrupt foreign officials use to hide their money. Now is the time to make sure it never
happens again.
Sen. Levin has taken a good first step by introducing legislation aimed at lifting the fog that can
surround corporate and bank account ownership. His bill, S. 569, would institute a new set of
rules to increase corporate transparency, helping both law enforcement and financial institutions.
I agree with the spirit of the bill, and look forward to working with the chairman to make it
legislation I can support.
Any legislation to address foreign corruption needs to be tough, yet not hamper law-abiding
companies. I have three main concerns that I believe can be addressed to give us a bill that will
gain wide support.
New rules should not be overly burdensome on small businesses. They should be crafted in a
way that protects legitimate trade secrets of U.S. businesses. All new rules should also be clear
so that corporations know exactly how to comply with the law
In spite of these concerns, there are many areas of agreement. I look forward to developing a
legislative solution that would address these concerns in a way that protects U.S. interests, but
toughens our laws.
We must never turn a blind eye to foreign corruption. The cases we will look at today highlight
the problems that arise when we do not have a sufficiently robust set of rules to keep corrupt
money at bay.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and thank those who have willingly participated
today.


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