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Tangled up in Shell Companies: Straw (Wo)Men

Who is financing these illicit acts? So I considered action at a distance, determining that principals ordering and funding nonlocal actions are not so easily identified notwithstanding the entanglement networks prepared with the tools of enhanced due diligence. Even with widespread eavesdropping and the porous structure of the Internet, some actors have been successful in perpetrating financial (and other) shenanigans under cover of anonymity or false / meaningless identity.

Everyone knows the meaning of anonymity and how it is abused by sources and disseminators of information. However, the meaning and abuses of false / meaningless identity may be less appreciated. For example, the creation and acceptance of legal fictions such as the hypothetical ABC LLC based in an offshore jurisdiction allow for meaningless identification of sources of funds: That the funds originated from ABC’s bank account in Cyprus is not altogether helpful, especially where front men / women are used to open (and close) the account.

Authentication is an issue given inconsistent treatment by policy-makers across borders and within states. Economic interests (e.g., fee-generating capacity of large deposits of currency / cash) tend to work against policies producing robust transparency and moral and legal responsibility at the expense of such interests.

Postscript: Identification by reference to legal fictions is not really meaningless. It tells much about the nature of the legal system and its customs (e.g., promoting concealment of individual authority for conduct and the real beneficiaries).

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