The Global Anti-Corruption Consortium (GACC) launched in 2016 to accelerate the global fight against corruption by combining hard-hitting investigative journalism with skillful civil society advocacy. While corrupt officials and criminal networks are increasingly organized and coordinated globally, journalists and civil society have traditionally worked in silos. We believe that strategic alliances between groups fighting corruption are essential to drive real change.
The GACC brings together investigative reporting by OCCRP’s global network of investigative journalists and advocacy efforts driven by Transparency International (TI), including its 100 chapters around the world. Evidence uncovered by OCCRP’s complex cross-border investigations fuels the efforts of TI’s anti-corruption movement and strengthens its advocacy work across continents. It turns headlines into action by arming civil society with the information needed to get results.
People in developing countries are most affected by graft. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are siphoned out of developing countries through offshores and into hedge funds, investments, luxury goods, and high price property investments in the West. This is capital that could have supported public health, education, economic development, social infrastructure, and small businesses. An essential part of our mission is to partner with journalists in developing countries to help them build their capacity to conduct high-impact investigations.
GACC priorities include:
- revealing how money laundering operates across the international financial system and reforming flaws in the system;
- showing how private interests influence state decision-making to their own advantage through “state capture,” and holding perpetrators accountable;
- exposing the corrupt exploitation of natural resources to stop damage to the environment.
A Laundromat is an all-purpose financial vehicle, typically set up by a bank or other financial services company, that is intended to help clients launder the proceeds of crime, hide ownership of assets, embezzle funds from companies, evade taxes or currency restrictions, and move money offshore.
Credit: Catalina Raileanu and Cosmin Nitu
In September 2017, OCCRP’s Azerbaijani Laundromat investigation revealed a $2.9-billion money-laundering operation and slush fund run by Azerbaijan’s ruling elite. Run through four shell companies registered in the U.K., with billions passing through Danske Bank — a major European financial institution that turned a blind eye — the laundered money was used to influence European politicians and representatives of international organizations, including delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) — Europe’s most significant human rights body.
TI rallied public pressure in response to the investigation, presenting European and national policymakers with evidence of how these illicit funds were used to buy the silence of PACE delegates in the face of Azerbaijan’s ongoing human rights abuses and advocating for an independent investigation into allegations of corruption. High-level resignations followed almost immediately. A year later, PACE’s independent external investigation confirmed wrongdoing. TI continues to call for criminal investigations in individual countries, the prosecution of those who allegedly took bribes from the Laundromat, and the establishment of a permanent investigative body within PACE. TI also used the Azerbaijani Laundromat stories to highlight the role that Western financial institutions play in facilitating corrupt activities, and the need for tougher EU-wide anti-money laundering supervision.
“It was the reporting and follow-up advocacy by our civil society partners on this major global investigation – these efforts all together through the GACC – that helped stop dirty lobbying for Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe. For the first time in my life, in my career as an investigative journalist, I saw accountability.”
🔗Ongoing Impact of the Azerbaijani Laundromat Project
- Financial regulators ordered the shutdown of Danske Bank’s Estonian branch (2019).
- German prosecutors fined Deutsche Bank more than $15 million for delayed suspicious transaction reports on money laundering transactions linked to the Russian and Azerbaijan Laundromats, which Deutsche Bank facilitated as a correspondent bank for Danske Bank (2020).
- Deutsche Bank was penalized $150 million in the United States for serious irregularities, partially for money transfers from the former Danske Bank branch in Estonia (2020).
- Frankfurt’s public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into two former German PACE members accused of accepting bribes after TI filed legal complaints (2020).
- An Italian court sentenced a former PACE member to four years in prison for accepting bribes to help mute Europe’s criticism of Azerbaijan’s human rights record (2021).
- An Azerbaijani couple paid $5.5 million to British authorities to settle a money laundering investigation opened by the National Crime Agency into the origin of the couple’s wealth (2021).
- The U.K.’s National Crime Agency seized $7.5 million from British bank accounts linked to an Azeri politician in its Azerbaijani Laundromat probe (2022).
Credit: Edin Pasovic/OCCRP
In 2019, after OCCRP uncovered a $4.6-billion money-laundering scheme run by and for Russia’s ruling elite, TI put a spotlight on Lithuania’s previously unscrutinized banking system and is working with the country to increase its capacity to combat money laundering. In August 2020, the Troika Laundromat was cited by German authorities as the reason for raids on suspects accused of laundering $8.3 million in the country.
The findings were also used to strengthen a campaign for tougher EU-wide banking supervision, which became one of six pillars of the European Commission’s new anti-money laundering action plan.
“The suspicion for the start of the investigation against the accused arises from data from the "Troika Laundromat,"…a money laundering network at the center of which is the former Russian investment bank TROIKA DIALOG, which is said to have maintained a network of offshore companies with accounts at Baltic banks.”
KICKBACKS, BRIBERY, AND ARMS FOR A CIVIL WAR
Credit: Svetlana Tiourina
This series showed how Brussels-based company Semlex made millions in Africa through bribery and kickbacks, inflating the cost of vital documents like passports and driving licenses for ordinary citizens while lining the pockets of wealthy elites.
Our investigations revealed corruption and bribery in Madagascar and Kenya, and showed how Semlex and its partner Gunvor used political contacts to enable corrupt oil deals worth billions in the Republic of the Congo and to arm former rulers of Ivory Coast during its 2011 civil war.
Geneva-based Gunvor Group, one of the world's largest energy traders, announced it will stop working with intermediaries, while Switzerland imposed the highest fine to date on Gunvor, $94 million. France also seized properties and froze assets belonging to Congolese elites.
GRAND CORRUPTION IN GAMBIA
Credit: Edin Pasovic/OCCRP
In 2019, OCCRP exposed how Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh and his associates plundered nearly one billion dollars from the country, draining state-owned enterprises, the country’s pension fund, and natural resources — all facilitated by Western professionals and foreign businessmen.
TI used the findings to call attention to these enablers of grand corruption. Together with local civil society group Gambia Participates, TI engaged with Gambian communities to create a film about the human cost of corruption.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice seized Jammeh’s $3.5 million Maryland mansion, allegedly acquired with corruption proceeds through a trust set up by his wife, Zineb Jammeh. Further, the Department of Treasury imposed economic sanctions on Zineb Jammeh, who faces serious corruption allegations. In 2022, the Department of Justice secured the mansion with plans to sell the property and use the proceeds to benefit the people of Gambia.
MADAGASCAR’S ENDANGERED ROSEWOODS
OCCRP showed how politically powerful rosewood traders make millions smuggling the timber to China. TI called on Madagascar’s government to take action on the trafficking of precious wood and successfully campaigned together with partner organizations to maintain the complete ban on the export of Malagasy rosewood.
HONDURAS’ COVID EQUIPMENT DISASTER
Credit: Edin Pasovic/OCCRP
OCCRP revealed how Honduras’s procurement agency paid an obscure U.S. company $47 million for seven mobile hospitals without signing a contract and the cost of the deal was inflated by $16 million. Not all of the hospitals arrived, and those that did were damaged and lacked proper equipment. TI’s Honduran chapter and local OCCRP partners published the story in Spanish. The public officer in charge of buying the equipment was eventually convicted of misappropriating public funds.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN VENEZUELA
Credit: Adriana Fernandez Loureiro / Efecto Cocuyo
OCCRP published a series of stories about pregnant women going without adequate food or medical attention in the midst of a national economic emergency. In response, TI launched an awareness-raising video campaign on social media. In September 2020, the U.N.’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, published its first findings, quoting related TI submissions to the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights.
CORRUPT TOURISM DEALS IN THE MALDIVES
In 2018, OCCRP published a series of stories showing how a coterie of senior officials in the Maldives leased scores of the country’s idyllic islands to tourism developers in corrupt deals. Paradise Leased: The Theft of the Maldives made huge waves in the country. TI Maldives contributed to the investigation, and continues to serve as a catalyst to bring about a more transparent and accountable government in the Maldives.
EU CITIZENSHIP FOR SALE
In March 2018, OCCRP’s Gold for Visas investigations revealed how EU citizenship, residency, and visa-free travel were being sold on a vast scale to the ultra-rich, making it easy for organized crime figures, tax-evaders, and money launderers to enter the bloc. Armed with cases from across the continent, TI and Global Witness successfully campaigned to raise awareness about the risks inherent in these schemes among European governments and EU officials. After two years of additional reporting and sustained pressure, the European Commission initiated legal action against Cyprus and Malta in late 2020. In 2022, Bulgaria formally suspended its golden passport program and the European Parliament proposed an end to golden passports while strictly regulating golden visas.
ORGANIZED CRIME AND FORMATION AGENTS
Credit: Svetlana Tiourina
In 2019, OCCRP coordinated a cross-border investigation into a major London-based company formation agency, part of an industry that U.K. law enforcement officials admit is regularly exploited by criminals. OCCRP’s stories also identify regulatory loopholes and failings that leave the global financial system vulnerable to fraud, money laundering, and corruption. TI used the investigation to push for more regulation and in 2021, the U.K. government and the National Crime Agency vowed to crack down on formation agents after conducting an official review that revealed the extent of their links to organized crime.
For more information, please contact Strategic Communications Officer Lauren Jackman lauren[at]occrp.org