The Hidden Oligarchs of South Dakota
Matt Bernardini reveals how some US states have quietly become a safe haven for the world's kleptocrats to hide their wealth
When a trove of more than 11.9 million confidential documents maintained by trust and corporate services providers around the world were published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in October 2021, it marked yet another in a series of high-profile investigations into the world of dirty money. This leak, known as the Pandora Papers, particularly highlighted the role that some US states have played in helping kleptocrats stash their money.
While past exposés like the Panama Papers have unfortunately not resulted in the vast policy changes needed, it appears that the Pandora Papers revelations are finally generating some much needed fixes to the opaque rules around beneficial ownership in the US.
Earlier this month IRS Special Agent Tom Larson said that the agency was investigating assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs that are held in South Dakota trusts.
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“We’ve found that some of that stuff is being held in trust in South Dakota,” Larson told South Dakota Public Broadcasting. “We’ve had some of those agents who’ve worked with agents we have here to go and interview those people who run those trusts, and try to unravel where that money is coming from and who is the owner of it, the beneficial owner of it.”
Martin Sheil, a former IRS criminal investigator, told Byline Supplement that this kind of investigation is likely connected to the KleptoCapture Task Force, which the US recently set up to go after the assets of Russian oligarchs.
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