This is how U.S. states captured by the trust industry help the world’s wealthy hide their fortunes.

By Kalena Thomhave and Chuck Collins,

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this February, Ukraine’s allies zeroed in on a possible weak spot for the attacking country: the hidden fortunes of Russian elites. Russian wealth has been parked in assets such as homes, apartments, art, yachts, and more — from oligarch Igor Makarov’s private trust company in Wyoming to Igor Sechin’s superyacht docked in France. The world could join together to move against oligarchs and freeze Russian wealth hiding.

luxury yacht parked outside a mansion

Oligarchy, however, is not confined to Russia. The clandestine world of financial secrecy stretches around the world, all the way back to the United States. And if Russian oligarchs can enjoy the tax haven of the United States, that means that elites from all over the world — including from the United States itself — can too.

Our research at the Institute for Policy Studies has shown that billionaire wealth has skyrocketed over the past several years, including during the pandemic. Since the start of the U.S. COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, known billionaire wealth has increased by more than 50 percent to nearly $5 trillion. And trillions more are probably secretly sequestered in trusts.

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