Organized Crime and Reporting Project Newsletter June 3, 2022

 


Greetings from Sarajevo, 

Often our reporting focuses on countries where money is stolen by kleptocratic governments, corrupt politicians, and criminals. But in the countries that receive illicit money flows, the harm to everyday people can be more difficult to define.

In cities like Vancouver, where ultra wealthy foreigners have parked billions of dollars in the real estate market, an influx of foreign wealth has led to sky-high house prices that are out of reach for most Canadians. 

Last week, OCCRP and the Toronto Star uncovered one source of shady foreign capital, a Chinese property developer who is accused of being part of a major military corruption scandal back in China.

Elsewhere, our member centers in South Asia and the Middle East have started exciting new projects to help investigative journalism thrive in those regions. 

Here’s this week’s OCCRP newsletter:

NEW INVESTIGATION

๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ Identifying Dodgy Money in Vancouver Real Estate ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Chen Runkai is wanted in China for his alleged role in a major military corruption scandal. Yet he and his family were able to transfer at least CA$114 million into Canadian banks, some of which was poured into luxury real estate in Vancouver. 

Read the full story, which was a collaborative effort with the Toronto Star. 


๐ŸŒ The Big Picture: The Chen family’s investments in Canada add to mounting concerns about illicit overseas money flowing into the country’s overheated real estate markets. The Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada estimates that CA$113 billion is laundered every year in the country. 


๐Ÿ˜ด Banks “Asleep at the Switch”: Canada's biggest banks — including the Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC, TD and the Bank of Montreal — all accepted money from Runkai and his family without flagging it to the country’s financial regulator. Here’s what experts had to say.


๐Ÿ“– More Reading: OCCRP has found Canada to be an unusually difficult jurisdiction to obtain property records. Read more about the country’s failures with transparency.

HOW OCCRP INVESTIGATES

๐Ÿด Hunting Horses: For our #RussianAssetTracker project, we asked readers to send us tips about assets tied to Kremlin allies.

A category we didn't initially account for was "horses." But when a tip came in about $500,000 show-jumpers tied to Roman Abramovich, we began the hunt. Read more in our blog, “OCCRP: Unreported.”

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THE OCCRP NETWORK

๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Oลกtro: Our Slovenian member center’s fact-checking platform, Razkrinkavanje.si, is now part of Meta’s “third-party fact-checking program,” which deputizes independent journalists and researchers to flag misinformation on Facebook and Instagram.

๐ŸŒ ARIJ: Our regional partner has released the first whistleblower platform in Arabic, iARIJ. People can remain anonymous and all data is kept confidential.

๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Watchdog: As Sri Lanka’s economy spirals, our partner’s fact-checking platform is in overdrive to verify as many viral claims as possible. One check debunked claims made by other media outlets that the World Bank had promised Sri Lanka $700 million. 

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Follow The Money: An investigation by our Dutch partner found research carried out by Dutch scientists who partnered with Chinese universities may have fallen into the hands of the Chinese military. 

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Slidstvo.Info: Our Ukrainian member center obtained a list of Russian phone numbers and the addresses of Russian bases in the Kyiv region. By combining these two data sets, reporters identified where and when soldiers were deployed — information that could be relevant in future war crimes cases. 

๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Kloop: Bektour Iskender, a journalist at our Kyrgyz member center, spoke about his outlet’s corruption reporting with TRACE International, a non-profit business association focused on anti-bribery and compliance measures.

➕ ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฌ More from Kyrgyzstan: Earlier this year, authorities raided the office of Temirov LIVE, our other Kyrgyz partner, arresting its founder on drug charges. 

In response, Temirov journalists published an investigation with footage of the night of the raid, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of law enforcement’s actions, the integrity of the charges against Temirov, and who was pulling the strings.

OCCRP IN NEWS

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฒ The Gambia: In 2019, OCCRP exposed how former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh and his associates plundered roughly $1 billion in timber resources and public funds, much of which was spent on luxuries abroad. 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it has seized a Maryland property that was purchased with $3.5 million in alleged corruption proceeds linked to the former president.

๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ณ Honduras: In 2020, OCCRP detailed the key role of one man, Axel G. Lรณpez, in a $47-million coronavirus procurement scandal involving mobile hospitals. 

Now, the former head of the government body that bought them has been convicted of breaking Honduran public procurement law.

๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ง Lebanon: Firas Hamdan unexpectedly won a seat in parliament on May 15 in southern Lebanon’s 111th district.

He and his colleagues with the "Together Towards Change" party have credited OCCRP and our local partner Daraj for bringing corruption to the forefront.

BIG EVENTS

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Our documentary The Killing of a Journalist will premiere in Europe at one of Central Europe’s most prestigious film festivals. July 1 to 9. Get tickets here.

DFRLab: OCCRP Deputy Editor in Chief Miranda Patrucic will moderate a panel on digital authoritarianism and the Pegasus Project. June 6. You can join in Brussels or virtually.

P.S. Thank you for reading the OCCRP newsletter. Feel free to reply with any feedback. 
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