The US “Offshore” Industry and the Eurasian Connection


In Cheyenne, Wyoming, a small brick-faced house sits between a Greek Orthodox Church and a tired-looking barbershop.

The structure does not stand out. Yet, according to court documents from several years ago, the innocuous-looking house once served as the fulcrum of a kleptocratic scheme. A news story about the case described the Cheyenne house as “a little Cayman Island on the Great Plains.”

The house, documents showed, hosted a shell company that purportedly owned $72 million in Ukrainian real estate. These properties were but a portion of the assets connected to Pavlo Lazarenko, who served as prime minister of Ukraine in 1996-97, and who was once characterized by the watchdog group Transparency International (TI) as one of the world’s top 10 kleptocrats. TI estimated that Lazarenko stole $200 million during his time in office.

Greek Orthodox Church, Cheyenne, Wyoming

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, a small brick-faced house sits between a Greek Orthodox Church and a tired-looking barbershop. The structure does not stand out. Yet, according to court documents from several years ago, the innocuous-looking house once served as the fulcrum of a kleptocratic scheme. (Photo courtesy of Google)

The Cheyenne address highlights an often overlooked link between post-Soviet kleptocrats and American entities – one that has been only reinforced by actions of American officials in Washington and many state houses. The ugly truth is that many federal and state entities in the United States have made it easy for foreigners (and American citizens alike) to set up shell companies, or use other vehicles that can hide illicitly obtained assets.

This puts the United States in an awkward position: some federal agencies have emerged as leaders in a global effort to uncover and recover dark money, while other federal and state entities have made it easy for dark money to flow into the United States.

Washington has pushed for some highly successful international anti-kleptocracy initiatives – including those focused on Central Asia – in the past decade. One recent example is the case against Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former dictator. Yet all the while, internal actions of American officials make it easy for these same…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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Sasha Harriet

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