The following is a script from “Anonymous, Inc.” which aired on Jan. 31, 2016. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. Graham Messick and Kevin Livelli, producers.
If you like crime dramas and movies with international intrigue, then you probably have a basic understanding of money laundering. It’s how dictators, drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and other crooks avoid getting caught by transforming their ill-gotten gains into assets that appear to be legitimate.
They do it by moving the dirty money through a maze of dummy corporations and offshore bank accounts that conceal their identity and the source of the funds.
And most of it would never happen without the help — witting or unwitting — of lawyers, accountants and incorporators; the people who actually create these anonymous shell companies and help move the money. In fact, the U.S. has become one of the most popular places in the world to do it.
Tonight, with the help of hidden camera footage, we’re going to show you how easy it seems to have become to conceal questionable funds from law enforcement and the public.
You need look no further for evidence than the changing skyline of New York City, where much of the priciest residential real estate is being snapped up not by individuals, but by anonymous shell companies with secret owners.
There’s nothing illegal about it as long as the money’s legitimate, but there’s no way to tell, if you don’t know who the real buyers are. It is one of the reasons Global Witness, a London-based nonprofit organization that exposes international corruption, came to New York City 19 months ago. It wanted to see how helpful U.S. lawyers would be in concealing questionable funds.