In 2004, President Bush signed Proclamation 7750 “To Suspend Entry As Immigrants or Nonimmigrants of Persons Engaged In or Benefiting From Corruption” (see here).
Proclamation 7750 basically says that the U.S. can suspend entry into the country “of certain persons who have committed, participated in, or are beneficiaries of corruption in the performance of public functions where that corruption has serious adverse effects on international activity” subject to an exception where denying such entry would be “contrary to the interests” of the U.S.
There is no question that the U.S. talks the talk when it comes to way to reduce bribery and corruption (who can forget prior DOJ statements such as “we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption”). However, this recent ProPublica article raises the question of whether the U.S. walks the walk and specifically highlights the use (or non-use as the case may be) of Proclamation 7750.
According to the article:
“Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shield 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 revealed 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.
[N]umerous … foreign government officials, including former presidents and cabinet ministers, have slipped through the cracks, according to court documents, diplomatic cables and interviews with prosecutors and defense attorneys in the United States and abroad. The charges involved a wide range of misconduct, from stealing public funds to accepting bribes.”
See here for prior FCPA Professor coverage of Proclamation 7750 including articles linked therein including a 2010 New York Times article quoting a former State Department official as saying the State Department(which is responsible for enforcing the proclamation) “seem[s] to lack the backbone to use this prohibition.”