Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shields them from arrest.
They have entered this country on a variety of visas, including one designed to encourage investment. Some have applied for asylum, which is intended to protect people fleeing oppression and political persecution.
The increasingly popular destination for people avoiding criminal charges is no pariah nation.
It’s the United States.
An investigation by ProPublica, in conjunction with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, has found that officials fleeing prosecution in Colombia, China, South Korea, Bolivia and Panama have found refuge for themselves and their wealth in this country, taking advantage of lax enforcement of U.S. laws and gaps in immigration and financial regulations. Many have concealed their assets and real-estate purchases by creating trusts and limited liability companies in the names of lawyers and relatives.
American authorities are supposed to vet visa applicants to make sure they are not under active investigation on criminal charges. But the ProPublica examination shows that this requirement has been routinely ignored.