All Roads Lead to Dirty Money

Map from UNODC report “The Globalization of Crime”

Today’s financial crimes involve vast multi-national networks and complex money laundering operations and as the crimes get more sophisticated and creative, so does the journalism.

Veteran crime reporters Stevan Dojcinovic, editor-in-chief of nonprofit investigative center KRIK in Serbia, and Paul Radu, executive director of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, discussed the latest techniques in financial crime at the Second Asian Investigative Journalism Conference on Saturday.

“It’s always about the money,” said Radu, explaining that “the follow-the-money process should be a part of every article.” He described money laundering as “the crime you cannot avoid” because money gained through illegal activity needs to be legitimized. 

With financial investigations, cross-border collaboration between journalists is crucial. When Bosnia-based OCCRP discovered that the mayor of Belgrade had real estate holdings on the coast of Bulgaria totaling more than $6 million, they reached out to Bulgarian journalists to help them investigate further.

“We always rely on international cooperation … without it this does not work,” said Dojcinovic.

Their favorite tool for finding financial crime story leads? Fishing. Dojcinovic and Radu explained that casting a wide net — running the names of officials and other high profile people through corporate databases — can lead to shell corporations, offshore real estate holdings, and other common attempts to hide assets. Tools like the OCCRP’s Investigative Dashboard are making online records searching more accessible.

The 10 most common crimes that produce dirty money are:

  1. Drug Trafficking
  2. Tax Evasion
  3. Privatization Fraud
  4. Misuse of Public Money
  5. Corruption
  6. Weapons Trafficking
  7. Cyber Fraud
  8. Health Care Fraud
  9. Proceeds from Environmental Crime
  10. Real Estate and Land Use Fraud

For a glimpse into the complex world of money laundering, check out this video from a recent OCCRP investigation on the massive Moldova-based international laundering machine:

Top 10 Financial Crimes to Investigate Session at IJAsia16

headshotslgiordano_7905Adiel Kaplan is a freelance investigative journalist based in Seattle, where she works with local news outlets including Crosscut, Seattle Weekly, and InvestigateWest.

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