OCCRP Partners with Leading U.K. Universities to Analyze the Professional Enablers of Corruption

Research will help anti-corruption community press for accountability.

comms bannerA selection of OCCRP investigations that show the role of professional enablers in facilitating high-risk transactions. (Image credit: James O’Brien, David Istvan)

As revealed in dozens of recent investigations, lawyers, accountants, company service providers, and other professionals play essential roles in cross-border corruption schemes.

To strengthen both reporting and research on this critical challenge, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is launching a new partnership with the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford to create and analyze new sources of data on enablers.

The project, “Global Finance and the Enablers of Corruption: Identifying Enabler Networks and their Vulnerabilities,” will utilize OCCRP’s unique data resources, including Aleph, its investigative data platform. A team of political scientists, data specialists, and journalists will work together to compile information on the professional actors who provide services to a selection of high-risk politically exposed persons (PEPs), which the academic researchers will then analyze to identify enabler networks and trends in enabler behavior.

"Armies of professionals around the world are helping corrupt individuals conduct their dirty business," said Global Anti-Corruption Consortium Director Alexandra Gillies, the project’s lead at OCCRP.  "Given the massive scale and secrecy of their work, we need silo-busting partnerships like this one to understand how these global networks function, and to chip away at the harm they cause."

The collaboration represents the first-ever large-scale effort to marshal OCCRP’s data capacities for academic research. The three organizations, led by Exeter, are among the recipients of the latest round of grants from the U.K.-funded Anti-Corruption Evidence Research Program.

“For more effective systems of deterrence and accountability to emerge, we need a stronger evidence base about enabler activity, and more advanced understandings of the risks and vulnerabilities of their transactions,” said University of Exeter Professor John Heathershaw. “Our work will help the anti-corruption community acquire the information and motivation it needs to meet this opportunity.”

“I am delighted with the prospect of working with OCCRP and Exeter on this pioneering project,” said University of Oxford Professor Ricardo Soares de Oliveira. “This sort of collaboration between journalists and scholars holds extraordinary promise in terms of both knowledge production and urgent regulatory reform of service provision to kleptocrats.”

In parallel, OCCRP is also collaborating with the University of Exeter on using artificial intelligence to extract enabler information from existing media reports and repositories of documents. When combined, the two projects will expand the enabler data available to anti-corruption actors around the world. This will complement ongoing research and advocacy efforts by civil society organizations such as Transparency International, with whom OCCRP is partnering as part of the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium.

For more information contact Global Anti-Corruption Consortium Assistant Daniel Figueroa at daniel.figueroa@occrp.org.