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Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

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Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
PurposeCombat corruption · crime prevention

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a global network of investigative journalists with staff on six continents.[1] It was founded in 2006 and specializes in organized crime and corruption.

It publishes its stories through local media and in English and Russian through its website. OCCRP works with and supports 50+ independent media outlets in Europe, Africa, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. In 2017, NGO Advisor ranked it 69th in the world in their annual list of the 500 best non-governmental organizations (NGO).[2]


OCCRP was founded by veteran journalists Drew Sullivan and Paul Radu. Sullivan was serving as the editor of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Radu worked with an early Romanian center. The team paired with colleagues in the region on a story looking at energy traders. The project showed traders were buying power at below production rates while the public was paying increasingly higher fees.[citation needed]

In 2019 the project received a Global Shining Light Award Citation of Excellence from the Global Investigative Journalism Network for its story entitled The Azerbaijani Laundromat.[3]

In March 2022, OCCRP was labeled as "undesirable organization" in Russia.[4]



The OCCRP has been involved in a number of high-profile investigations, including looking at the offshore services industry, organized crime ownership in football clubs, casinos and the security industry.[5][6][7]

Magnitsky case[edit]

In 2013, it investigated the Magnitsky case, the largest tax fraud in Russian history, and wrote that funds stolen from the Russian treasury ended up in a company now owned by the son of Moscow's former transportation minister. Some of the money was used to buy high-end real estate near Wall Street.[8][9] US prosecutors have since sought to seize $18 million in property from the company.[10]


It published stories on Montenegro's long-time President and Prime Minister Milo Đukanović. Two series looked at the ties between Đukanović and organized crime. One series traced the President's family-owned bank, Prva Banka (First Bank), and how the president privatized it to his brother cheaply, moved massive state funds into the bank and then loaned the money out to his family, friends and organized crime on overly favorable terms. When the bank failed under the weight of these bad loans, the president bailed it out with taxpayer money. The Central Bank said the government lied about repaying the loan[which?] simply shuttling funds back and forth and claiming the loan was repaid.[11][12] A second series examined how the president through his staff kept close relationships to international drug traffickers like Darko Saric, and that municipalities controlled by the president's party gave prime coastal property almost for free to Saric. It also wrote that the Italian mafia was smuggling cigarettes to Italy from an island off the coast of Montenegro owned by his[whose?] good friend Stanko Subotic and controlled by his[whose?] head of security.[13][12]


It investigated an assassination attempt on a Russian banker which led the Moldovan government to ban the pro-Russian Patria political party from the 2014 elections and the party's leader to flee the country.[14][15] It also looked at a massive money laundering scheme, the Russian Laundromat, that moved tens of billions of dollars into Europe using offshore companies, fake loans and bribed Moldovan judges. Some of the Russian banks involved were owned in part by Igor Putin, a cousin of Russian President Vladimir Putin.[16][17]

Swedish telecom bribery scandal[edit]

In 2015, working with SVT Swedish Television and the TT News Agency, the OCCRP uncovered that the Swedish/Finnish Telecom giant TeliaSonera (now Telia), Vimpelcom and other phone companies had paid about $1 billion in bribes.[18][19] More than $800 million in assets were seized or frozen by law enforcement after the scandal. Vimpelcom attempted to negotiate a $775 million fine for their part in the bribes,[20] but was fined $795 million, including a $230 million criminal penalty to both U.S. and Dutch authorities, and a $375 million penalty to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[21][22] OCCRP, SVT and TT News Agency were awarded the Golden Shovel Award, the most important award for investigative journalism in Sweden.[18]

Panama Papers[edit]

OCCRP worked on the Panama Papers project with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Süddeutsche Zeitung producing more than 40 stories on corruption through the use of offshore entities, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Journalism.[23] These included how friends close to Russian President Vladimir Putin were receiving large sums of money through offshore companies;[24] how the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev owned a majority of his country's mining industry through offshore companies;[25][26] and, how President Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine had violated Ukrainian law and avoided taxes using offshore companies.[27]

In 2019, OCCRP and 21 media partners discovered that Russia's former largest investment bank – Troika Dialog laundered $4.8 billion of funds. The so called scheme – Troika laundromat allowed funds to flow from Russian companies and figures into Europe and the US between 2003 and early 2013.[28][29][30][31]

Formations House[edit]

In December 2019, Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) published "#29 Leaks" in partnership with the OCCRP and more than 20 outlets in 18 countries.[32]

The 450 gigabytes of data came from Formations House (now The London Office), a "company mill" which registered and operated companies for clients included organized crime groups, state-owned oil companies, and fraudulent banks.[33][34][35] The leak included emails, documents, faxes, and recordings of phone calls.[33] Investigations revealed the firm ran a web of companies registered in Hong Kong, Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands and Pakistan,[36] helped clients avoid anti-money laundering rules[37] and had created banks in The Gambia in an attempt to create a tax haven.[36][38] According to The Times, there was no evidence that Formations House did anything illegal but their investigation highlighted worrying vulnerabilities in the UK’s defences against money laundering".[39]

The release was compared to both the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers.[33][34][35] Belgian tax authorities initiated an investigation based on data from this leak and from the Cayman National Bank and Trust leak published by DDoSecrets the prior month.[40] Politicians in Sweden and the UK, including anti-corruption chief John Penrose said the leak showed the need for reforms on company creation and registration.[36][41]

Russian asset tracker[edit]

In March 2022, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the project launched the Russian asset tracker to showcase the assets of the oligarchs and other influential Russians who have links to the Russian president Vladimir Putin.[42] In June 2022, the company revealed an investigation on LLCInvest.[43]

Team Jorge[edit]

In February 2023, together with The Guardian and other publications, the OCCRP uncovered a vast disinformation campaign codenamed Team Jorge, organized by ex-Israeli special forces operative Tal Hanan, which is alleged to have conducted electoral meddling in more than 30 countries over the course of several years.[44]


In November 2023, the OCCRP joined with more than 40 media partners including Cerosetenta / 070, Vorágine, the Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística (CLIP) and Distributed Denial of Secrets and journalists in 23 countries and territories for the largest investigative project on organized crime to originate in Latin America, producing the 'NarcoFiles' report. The investigation was based on more than seven million emails from the Colombian prosecutor’s office which had been hacked by Guacamaya, including correspondence with embassies and authorities around the world. The files dated from 2001–2022 and included audio clips, PDFs, spreadsheets, and calendars.[45][46] The investigation revealed new details about the global drug trade and over 44 tons of "controlled deliveries" carried out to infiltrate the drug trade[47][48] and how criminals corrupt politicians, bankers, accountants, lawyers, law enforcement agents, hackers, logistics experts, and journalists in order to use logistical, financial, and digital infrastructures.[49]

Cyprus Confidential[edit]

In November 2023, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Paper Trail Media [de] and 69 media partners including Distributed Denial of Secrets and the OCCRP and more than 270 journalists in 55 countries and territories[50][51] produced the 'Cyprus Confidential' report on the financial network which supports the regime of Vladimir Putin, mostly with connections to Cyprus, and showed Cyprus to have strong links with high-up figures in the Kremlin, some of whom have been sanctioned.[52][53] Government officials including Cyprus president Nikos Christodoulides[54] and European lawmakers[55] began responding to the investigation's findings in less than 24 hours,[54] calling for reforms and launching probes.[56][57]


According to the OCCRP, Vlast, and iStories, Uzbekistan's exports to Russia have increased significantly since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine (February 24, 2022), including cotton pulp and nitrocellulose. These components are key in the manufacture of explosives and gunpowder. At least two large Uzbek exporters worked with Russian military-industrial complex enterprises, and at least three Russian companies - Bina Group, Khimtrade and Lenakhim - sold Uzbek cotton pulp in Russia to military plants under US sanctions.[58][59]

Person of the Year Award[edit]

Since 2012, OCCRP has dedicated the Person of the Year Award that "recognizes the individual or institution that has done the most to advance organized criminal activity and corruption in the world".[60]

Drew Sullivan said that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte "has made a mockery of rule of law in his country. While he is not your typical corrupt leader, he has empowered corruption in an innovative way. His death squads have allegedly focused on criminals but, in fact, are less discriminating. He has empowered a bully-run system of survival of the fiercest. In the end, the Philippines are more corrupt, more cruel, and less democratic."[65]

Daily Updates[edit]

The website of the organization provides daily updates about alleged instances of corruption and organized crime around the world, which reach 6 million readers every month.[72]

OCCRP Aleph[edit]

OCCRP Aleph is an investigative data platform containing an archive of government records and open databases. OCCRP grants access to journalists and activists on a case by case basis.[73]

Luxembourg ultimate beneficial owner database[edit]

The UBO register does not allow search-by-owner-name, only company name or registration number. OCCRP received, from Le Monde, 3.3 million documents about 140,000 Luxembourg companies, scraped from the registry.[74] Reporting about this are:

Global Anti-Corruption Consortium[edit]

The Global Anti-Corruption Consortium (GACC) is a partnership that brings together investigative reporting from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and advocacy driven by Transparency International (TI). TI uses evidence from OCCRP’s corruption investigations to inform and strengthen policy and legal advocacy. For example, OCCRP’s 2017 Azerbaijani Laundromat investigation revealed a US$2.9 billion money-laundering operation and slush fund run by Azerbaijan’s ruling elite. Run through four shell companies registered in the UK, with billions passing through Danske Bank – Denmark’s biggest bank – 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, presented European and national policymakers with evidence of reputation laundering and advocated for an independent investigation into allegations of corruption at the PACE. Resignations at the highest levels of the PACE followed almost immediately. A year later, PACE’s independent external investigation found numerous breaches of codes of conduct and, in some cases, corrupt activities.[93]


OCCRP's stated goal is to help people understand how organized crime and corruption resides in their countries and in their governments.[72] The organization does not belong to any country, political philosophy or set of beliefs other than that all people should be allowed to choose their own governments and lead their own lives in safety, liberty and opportunity.[72] Its reporters and editors come from dozens of countries.[72]

OCCRP's mission statement says, "Our world is increasingly polarized. The world’s media channels are rife with propaganda, misinformation and simply wrong information. We must all strive to understand how our increasingly complex society works. We must be able to find the truth to make the kinds of decisions we need to. We are committed in our small way to telling the truth the best we can."[72]

The organization provides training to reporters and partners.[72]


As of May 2024, OCCRP has claimed the following totals as a result of its investigations:[94]

  • >US$10 billion in fines levied and assets seized by government agencies
  • 767 government actions
  • 667 arrests, warrants, or sentences
  • 417 official investigations
  • 245 civic actions
  • 135 resignations or sackings of key figures, including a President, Prime Minister and CEOs of major international corporations
  • 132 corporate actions

Organization and funding[edit]

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a registered name of the Journalism Development Network (JDN), a Maryland-based 501(c)(3) organization.[95] OCCRP is governed by a board of directors: Marina Gorbis, David Boardman, Anders Alexanderson, Sue Gardner, Saska Cvetkovska, Drew Sullivan and Paul Radu.[96]

OCCRP include the Center for Investigative Reporting (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (CIN) in Sarajevo, the RISE Project in Bucharest, the Centar za istraživačko novinarstvo - Serbia (CINS)[97] in Belgrade, Investigative Journalists of Armenia (HETQ)[98] in Yerevan, the Bulgarian Investigative Journalism Center[99] in Sofia, Átlátszó.hu [hu][100] in Budapest, MANS[101] in Montenegro, Re:Baltica[102] in Riga, SCOOP-Macedonia[103] in Skopje, Bivol.bg[104] in Bulgaria, Slidstvo.info [uk][105] in Ukraine, The Czech Center for Investigative Reporting[106] in Prague and RISE Moldova in Chisinau, the Belarusian Investigative Center in exile in Poland among others. It is also partnered with Novaya Gazeta in Moscow and the Kyiv Post in Kyiv. New member centers were added to the OCCRP Network between 2015 and 2016, including the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), Direkt36 in Hungary, Slidstvo.info in Ukraine, and DOSSIER in Austria.[107]

OCCRP is supported by grants by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the United States Department of State, the Swiss Confederation, Google Ideas, Open Society Foundations (OSF)[108] and the Knight Foundation.[72]

Awards and recognition[edit]

OCCRP won the 2015 European Press Prize Special Award for its work, with the judges saying "the OCCRP is a memorably motivated, determined force for good everywhere it operates. Its members do not get rich, but the societies they serve are richer and cleaner for the scrutiny only true, independent journalism can provide."[109]

It won the 2015 Investigative Reporters and Editors Tom Renner award for "The Khadija Project," an initiative to continue the work of imprisoned OCCRP/RFE reporter Khadija Ismayilova.[110] It has been a finalist for three years running for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting. It was a 2010 finalist for its project on the illegal document trade.[111] It won the 2011 Daniel Pearl Award for its project[112] "Offshore Crime, Inc.",[113] a series of stories documenting offshore tax havens, the criminals who use them and millions of dollars in lost tax money. It was again a finalist in 2013 for its story about an international money laundering ring called the Proxy Platform.[114] It won the Global Shining Light Award in 2008 for investigative reporting under duress for its series on energy traders.[115] OCCRP was double finalist for the same award in 2013 for its stories on the first family of Montenegro's bank, "First Family, First Bank".[116] It won the award[117] for its stories on the first family of Azerbaijan's ownership of major companies in that country. It partnered with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for a project on tobacco smuggling[118] that won the Overseas Press Club Award and Investigative Reporters and Editors's Tom Renner Award for crime reporting.[119][120]

Khadija Ismayilova[edit]

OCCRP and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty[121] journalist Khadija Ismayilova, based in Baku, Azerbaijan was blackmailed by an unknown party with video captured in her bedroom using a camera installed in the wall. The camera was planted two days after OCCRP/RFERL published a story by Ismayilova about the presidential family in Azerbaijan and how it secretly owned Azerfon, a mobile phone company with a monopoly 3G license.[122] A note threatened to show the videos if Ismayilova did not "behave". She went public about the threats and the videos were shown on at least two websites. Ismayilova said that "the evidence shows that the government agencies were involved in the crime and prosecutor’s office fails to act as an independent investigative body".[123]

After this incident, Ismayilova published articles stating that the first family also owned shares in six major goldfields[124][non-primary source needed] and they owned one of the construction companies that built the new showcase Crystal Hall[125][non-primary source needed] auditorium in Baku, the site of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. In September 2015, Ismayilova was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty wrote that the charges were "widely viewed as being trumped up in retaliation for her reports linking family members of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to massive business and real estate holdings". Amal Clooney offered to act as her lawyer.[126]

OCCRP started the Khadija Project, an investigative reporting effort to continue Ismayilova's work.[127]

From 2016 to the present (2021), OCCRP's website has been permanently blocked in Azerbaijan by the Aliev government, without any court decision.[128]

In January 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Azerbaijan government failed to properly investigate a 2012 "sex video" and the subsequent threats of its public disclosure.[129][130]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

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