A tool that helps journalists follow the money, and expose illicit networks across borders.
"...he's not authorized to give you any documents. He's not authorized to give you any statistics. So, we don't have anything to start from."
These words were spoken by Hisham Allam, an investigative journalist renowned for exposing corruption in Egypt. Yet, by his own admission, actionable data and statistics are hard to come by. So, with a lack of information, how does he break his stories?
One tool Allam has used is Investigative Dashboard - an online search portal and research center that aims to streamline organized crime and corruption reporting.
The resource was developed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), with funding from the Open Society Foundations and support from Google Ideas and USAID.
Investigative Dashboard is made up of three sections:
1. A searchable data repository, consisting of internationally-collected public records as well as data scraped from the business registries and official gazettes of popular offshore banking countries like Panama, British Virgin Islands, and Luxembourg.
2. A list of 827 online databases and business registries across 59 jurisdictions.
3. A research support system where journalists can "ask a research expert" to source obscure or hard to find information.
Hisham Allam is not the only journalist who has benefited from the Dashboard's resources. Several other major corruption scandals and crime stories have been uncovered with the help of Investigative Dashboard's resources.
In 2012, records unearthed with the help of Investigative Dashboard exposed a bribery scandal involving Swedish telecom company TeliaSonera. In order to secure its expansion into Uzbekistan, the company was found to have paid bribes to the country's repressive regime.
Similarly, the Dashboard was used to track down the banking records of Russian companies that received stolen tax money, and the US attorney for the Southern District of New York used information from the Dashboard to recover a case of $230 million international tax fraud.
Coming soon, the Investigative Dashboard will also offer an integration with Visual Investigative Scenarios. This integration envisions to help journalists identify connections and unravel stories through data visualization.
Visit the Investigative Dashboard website here.
Photo: Bill Selak