Treasury's Yellen vows big push against corruption, new 'kleptocracy fund'

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen waits to testify before a Senate Banking Committee hybrid hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department must play a major role in combating corruption at home and abroad, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told President Joe Biden's democracy summit on Thursday, unveiling a new "kleptocracy fund" to reward tips on where corrupt foreign leaders hid their money in the United States.

She said the Treasury was working to crack down on money laundering and illicit finance from overseas, while beefing up enforcement against tax evaders at home who cost the Treasury $600 billion in revenues last year alone.

"After all, the United States cannot be a credible voice for free and fair government abroad if at the same time we allow the wealthy to break our laws with impunity," she said.

Congress authorized creation of the "Kleptocracy Assets Recovery Rewards" program as part of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to "intensify the global fight against corruption" and aid U.S. efforts to identify and recover stolen assets and return them to the country in question.

The legislation called for a $25 million cap per year on payments for tips that led to seizure, forfeiture or repatriation of stolen assets at U.S. financial institutions.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.