The President can now impose economic sanctions on individuals involved in corruption or human rights abuses thanks to action by Congress. The so-called "Global Magnitzky Act" passed the Senate on December 8 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. In 2012, an earlier version of the act passed that was specific to addressing corruption in Russia. The new legislation expands the President's powers to any individual no matter their country of origin. President Obama is likely to sign the bill into law soon.
"Congress is taking proactive, bi-partisan measures to fight corruption," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "Poor and vulnerable people are often the victims of corruption and human rights abuse."
The Magnitzky Act gives the President the authority to implement a number of penalties, including visa sanctions and asset freezes. The act is named for a Russian whistle-blower who died in prison in 2009.
Congress is also considering other anti-corruption measures that would make it more difficult for foreign officials to launder money in the US financial system. The Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act would give law enforcement access to the names of the owners of so-called "anonymous shell companies" if they suspect those companies of criminal activity.
"There is more work for Congress to do on the global anti-corruption front and there's some interest on both sides of the aisle on moving forward," stated LeCompte.
According to a recent report from the research organization Global Financial Integrity, developing countries lose more money to corruption and tax evasion than they receive in loans, aid and from other sources combined. African countries lost a combined $862 billion to so-called "illicit financial flows" between 2004 and 2013.
Read the text of the Global Magnitzky Act
Read about the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act