OCCRO Newsletter 9/23/2022



Greetings from Sarajevo,

We’re ending the summer with investigations into more secret Credit Suisse accounts, and secretly-recorded videos that led to the resignation of a Congolese presidential adviser. We also have a gorgeous photo essay about Italy's most powerful mafia. 

But first, we wanted to make sure you saw the new documentary “Bad Blood,” from our member center the Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia. The film exposes how a famous surgeon used an experimental COVID-19 treatment on patients from a number of European countries. 

Since the film's premiere, the offices of the Investigative Reporting Lab have been flooded with people who claim their relatives died from the doctor’s controversial practices. Government agencies in Macedonia have also launched investigations of their own, based on the film’s findings. 

It’s a breathtaking documentary that pulls the veil from a private hospital that marketed itself as a state-of-the-art institution, and reveals the alleged role of a major American pharmaceutical company in the scandal. 

Enable closed captioning if you don't speak Macedonian. 

Now for the latest from the OCCRP network:


NEW INVESTIGATIONS


1. This is What Corruption in the Congo Looks Like

“If I ask [the president] something, he gives.”

The story that led to a resignation: OCCRP obtained undercover footage of an influential Congolese presidential advisor brokering a corrupt mining deal with would-be investors.

In return for shares, Vidiye Tshimanga promised to help investors secure access to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s vast mineral wealth, including mining licenses.

⚡ Big Impact: While Tshimanga has denied wrongdoing, he resigned the day after our investigation was published. 

🌐  The Big Picture: Despite the DRC’s abundance of valuable natural resources, much of its wealth finds its way into the hands of a small elite, frequently abetted by foreign companies.

Experts say this secretly-recorded footage is indicative of how corrupt mining deals are structured in the Congo. This, in part, is also why OCCRP made the decision to publish the tapes.

>> Read the full story
 

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2. The Secret Swiss Bank Accounts of African Leaders

The #SuisseSecrets leak shows how powerful African political figures shared hugely valuable accounts at Credit Suisse with executives at an investment fund linked to a bribery scandal.

πŸ“” The Backstory: In the 1990s, Addax Petroleum, an obscure Swiss company, landed one of the most lucrative oil deals in Nigeria’s history. Years later, a French court heard how Addax won the contracts by bribing the national oil minister to the tune of $5 million.

πŸ”Ž What We Found: Suisse Secrets documents show that executives from Addax’s parent company held secret Credit Suisse accounts with powerful African political figures, including Umaru Ali Shinkafi, a former Nigerian spy chief and close associate of the country’s former military dictator, Sani Abacha.

🌐 The Big Picture: This investigation uncovers financial ties between politicians and a company that profited massively from an oil deal tied to bribes. Experts say there is no obvious legitimate reason why these secret Swiss bank accounts should have been set up.

>> Read the full story.

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3. The Mafia Keeps Crashing This Holy Event 

“This is a land where the mafia and legality, the sacred and the profane, coexist.” 

Every year, pilgrims from Calabria and beyond walk — sometimes for days — to the Sanctuary of Polsi, the site of a Catholic celebration that also attracts members of the 'Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful mafia.

OCCRP member center IrpiMedia attended this year’s festival to document the sway the organized crime group holds over the sacred event.

>> Read the full story


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BALKAN COCAINE WARS NEWS

πŸ‡·πŸ‡Έ Gang Leader Sentenced πŸ‡²πŸ‡ͺ A court in Serbia sentenced the leader of the Kavač, one of two warring Montenegrin criminal clans, for using forged documents and a fake identity.

Radoje Zvicer, who has been on the lam since 2020, was given his prison sentence in absentia. 

To learn more about the Kavač, and their bloody drug war with the Ε kaljari, read our Balkan Cocaine Wars project.

MORE IN CORRUPTION NEWS

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Money in U.S. Politics — U.S. President Joe Biden endorsed the DISCLOSE ACT, a bill that would force political action committees and other political groups to disclose donors who give more than $100,000 in an election cycle.

However, the bill to combat dark money likely won’t secure the votes needed to pass in Congress. Read more from Reuters.

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Where’s America’s Corporate Registry? After the publication of the FinCEN Files investigation, the U.S. passed a bill designed to lay the groundwork for a registry of beneficial owners.

But while these databases are a key tool in tracking illicit money flows, the one proposed in the U.S. would not be publicly accessible. Only certain government officials and bank officers could access it. 

And implementing even this watered down version of a corporate registry has encountered significant snags at the Treasury Department. Experts fear the database may never come to fruition. Read more at ICIJ.

MORE IN ORGANIZED CRIME NEWS

Scam School Busted — Nigerian authorities raided several schools specializing in “yahoo-yahoo,” a term locals use for online fraud, including romance scams, phishing, and impersonation. Graduates of such schools have reportedly formed a distinct social group in Nigerian society. 

Alleged Antiquities Trafficker Gives his Side — Prominent Lebanese antiquities dealer Georges Lotfi published a long blog post insisting on his innocence, after he was accused of trading looted artifacts that ultimately ended up in the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other major museums. 

OCCRP DOCUMENTARY

Our film on the murder of our Slovakian colleague Jan Kuciak is making waves around the world. Here are the upcoming screenings of “The Killing of a Journalist”: 

9/23        Media Festival Skopje in Macedonia

9/27-10/2  Zurich Film Festival

9/29-10/8  Vancouver International Film Festival

10/9        International Journalism Week in Athens and online

10/14-15  Chicago International Film Festival in person and online in certain U.S. states

10/16      Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival in Washington, D.C. and online

 




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