Biden targets all-cash real estate deals in anti-corruption drive

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President Joe Biden listens to a reporters question after delivering remarks on the November jobs report, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration wants to shed new light on transactions where people pay cash for houses as part of a broad anti-corruption drive being promoted at the U.S. Summit for Democracy, officials said.

In June, President Joe Biden ordered officials to craft policies to thwart illegal activities. Their initial proposals are outlined in a 38-page U.S. national security strategy on countering corruption released on Monday.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it is working on a new rule to better identify who is behind all-cash real estate transactions and to see if those purchases are being used to shelter illegal profits.

“The ability of illicit actors to launder criminal proceeds through the purchase of real estate,” Treasury said, “threatens U.S. national security and the integrity of the U.S. financial system.”

The agency may also require that more investment funds, such as hedge funds and private equity vehicles, engage in anti-money laundering efforts. And they expect to announce as soon as this week new efforts toward creating a database identifying the owners behind shell companies used to move money anonymously.

The moves come after a series of leaked documents, including October’s release of the Pandora Papers, raised questions about ways in which government officials and others discreetly move money abroad, potentially to dodge taxes or accountability for wrongdoing.

Biden is hosting a virtual summit on Thursday and Friday with 110 participants as part of an effort to confront what his administration sees as authoritarian forces led by China and Russia. 

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