Organized Crime and Government Corruption
Drew Sullivan and Paul Radu of the Organized Crime and Corruption Project spoke at Code for America about the hidden connections between governments around the world and organized crime, and OCCRP's work to highlight the connections. Here are livetweets from the presentation, plus other comments.
- I started out by telling the audience how much I admire OCCRP's work. These guys are real heroes, putting their very lives at risk. They also have a huge impact on a tiny budget, putting to shame all the naysayers who claim that the death of classified newspaper advertising is also the death of investigative journalism!
- Drew started out by making clear just how big the problem is.
- In many of these big-ticket transactions, money and illegal goods move around the world via massive crime networks.
- Ruling families in many "failed state" countries are really the heads of criminal gangs. E.g. North Korea is the largest counterfeiter of US Currency - they have access to the same currency printing presses and paper as we do!
- Lawyers, bankers, accountants, sure. But hedge funds? It actually makes sense, though. What an effective way to recycle large-scale illegal profits into the economy!
- Drew and Paul showed off their Investigative Dashboard, which lets you put in the name of government officials around the world, and see what shell companies they own in various jurisdictions that are used for money laundering and other illicit activities.
- I loved Drew's justification for how their work helps block corruption.
- If shell companies are publicly identified, it's harder for money to re-enter the legitimate economy. But of course, that's why organized crime is one of the leading opponents of open data around the world.
- Drew didn't mince words about the US's special relationship to corruption. He singled out the way that tax avoidance is legalized via lobbying.
- Vijay Sankaran replied:
- Drew also talked a bit about OCCRP's "people of interest" database.
- Overall, an inspiring (albeit depressing) presentation. If there are developers who are willing to help OCCRP with their work, let me know, and I'll put you in touch. Or reach out directly to OCCRP. You can follow them on twitter or their website, reportingproject.net.
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