ANALYSIS: A few thousand dollars – the price of life for civilians killed in war zones

By Crina Boros, Craig Shaw and Karrie Kehoe | First published by Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 16 Jul 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When U.S. soldiers still patrolled the streets of Mosul in northern Iraq, a local man went for a walk to get some ice cream. Gunfire broke out and he was shot dead by U.S. troops.

Documents released by U.S. forces do not say why he was shot but show they gave his wife $2,500 and his child a “condolence gift” of $1,000.

Those payments, following the shooting on May 2, 2005, are among thousands the United States and its allies have made to civilians caught up in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to deaths, wounds or property damage involving Western forces.

Read full story


Agent behind complex webs

By Duncan Campbell and Craig Shaw | Originally published in the Sunday Times on 28 April 2013
Consultant Philip Burwell operates from a house in Dublin

Consultant Philip Burwell operates from a house in Dublin



A MODEST terraced red-brick house in southeast Dublin is the hub of a worldwide corporate empire that has set up companies involved in vast money-laundering operations.

The leaked offshore documents reveal that corporate consultant Philip Burwell, who operates from this address, is one of the world’s most prolific corporate offshore agents.

Burwell’s skill is creating complex networks of companies with nominee directors and nominee companies, often in remote corners of the world, acting as directors and shareholders.

These nominees have little or no involvement in the businesses for which they are ostensibly responsible and their only role is to act as a front for the real owners.

Investigators on the trail of illicit funds have often found themselves trying to unpick one of Burwell’s labyrinthine corporate structures.

Burwell said last week that he had formed more than 1,000 British companies that are controlled offshore. He said the use of nominee offshore directors could help conceal the identities of the backers and avoid tax. He said he always conducted the required checks and complied with all relevant laws.

Burwell admitted that the use of nominee directors was not properly regulated by the authorities, but said it was beyond his control. “It’s an abuse and should not be allowed to happen,” he said.

Emails in the leaked cache of documents, however, reveal Burwell has used a panel of Latvian nominee directors, including Erik Vanagels, a pensioner, and Stan Gorin, a law graduate. He has  appointed more than 10 nominee companies to own shares, including one called Milltown Corporate Services and another called Ireland and Overseas Acquisitions.

Eurostate Corporation, a company managed by Burwell’s nominee companies, was at the centre of an alleged sham vaccine contract with Ukraine’s health ministry. The Ukraine government has tried to recover its money in the British and American courts.

Another of Burwell’s companies, Tomex Team Inc, was revealed to be the owner of the MV Faina, a Ukrainian cargo ship containing tanks and arms which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2008. The shipment was bound for Sudan, then under an arms embargo.

Burwell also helped to create a company for Mukhtar Ablyazov, the Kazakh billionaire accused of looting the BTA bank in Kazakhstan  of $5bn. The company,  Loginex Projects LLP, was among a number of companies that were allegedly used to move $1bn illegally from the bank.

Burwell said the financial ransacking of the bank was considered “the biggest fraud” in history. He created Loginex Projects LLP, but said he did not know it would be used for laundering. Burwell also set up offshore companies for the son of Valery Kargin, one of the founders of Parex, Latvia’s largest private bank.

The bank collapsed in December 2008. Kargin and a fellow director were sued for having “enriched themselves at the bank’s expense”.

Burwell said he was not responsible for the operation of the companies he helped to create and appointed nominee directors and shareholders under instruction from clients.

17 July and some stuff to look at.

Can’t be hassled to write something, so here’s some stuff I read today that y’all might wanna read.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ‘Skin and Bone: the Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts’

The ICIJ has published its latest ongoing investigation into the trafficking of cadavers for use in medical proceedures.

The Online Education Database- ‘The 40 Best Blogs for Journalism Students

The OEDb has published a list of the 40 most useful blogs for journalism students.

Columbia Journalism Review – ‘Something fishy?

By Mariah Blake – An excellent piece on John Solomon and his controversial period at the Center for Public Integrity, which was marred by infighting with its subsidiary organisation – the ICIJ – and led to the eventual resignation of David Kaplan.

It’s a soap-opera for journalists.

WatchDog Watcher – ‘8 Ways to Commit Grand Corruption (Part 1) and (Part 2)

An amusing, informative and slightly unnerving post by Sheila Coronel,director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, who gives an idea of how to launder moolah if you’re corrupt. Useful if you are corrupt. And have money. Which I don’t.

Click here to read Part 1

Click here for Part 2

Data Journalism Handbook

If you have read this far, you might also be interested in the Data Journalism Handbook. The PDF download is free.

Investigative Reporting: Is it still a staple of the modern press?

The following piece is based on interviews I conducted in February/March 2011, and is obviously disadvantaged by not having the Leveson Inquiry to reference or the full revelations regarding NotW phone hacking. 

I am unable to understand how a man of honour could take a newspaper in his hands without a shudder of disgust. – Charles Baudelaire


Journalism has forged a strange and unique reputation within society. Without a doubt an efficient and functioning independent press is the keystone of an open and honest democracy. Over the decades journalists have effectively saved lives, exposed corruption and toppled a President. But in the public consciousness, journalists are demonised and lionised in equal measure. With its own retellings and representations, Hollywood has further promoted the idea of the ‘investigative reporter’ as wielder of ‘truth’ against the tyranny of injustice, but also the invader of privacy and the destroyer of lives. This duplicity is standard stuff, and not entirely incorrect.  As journalist Roy Greenslade would put it, “in the public estimation of our worth, we rank alongside politicians and estate agents. It always seems to have been the case, since the dawn of newspapers onwards.” (2010)

It can be argued that journalism itself is in some way investigative, but the differences between standard and investigative journalism appear to be vast, not least for those who practice the latter. However, those with a romantic sensibility always look backwards. Many journalists cite ‘Watergate’ as a crucial influence upon their career choice, and a benchmark for the power of the press and investigative reporting. It is nearly 40 years since Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate, and there have since been many significant investigations, but none which garners such affection as the probe into President’s Nixon’s crooked machinations.

Times were different in the 70s. The modern news industry is plagued with an increasing assortment of destructive forces: the decline in sales and revenue; the increasing online imperative; the rise in public relations; libel laws and injunctions; and shortages in newsroom staffing. And although investigative reporting in the current age sets itself apart from (or in opposition to) day-to-day news reporting, it is nevertheless shackled to the same sinking ship.


Defining investigative journalism in a broad sense rarely poses much of a problem. Those with an opinion on the matter tend to agree on the fundamentals: that investigative reporting sets out to uncover that which, for whatever reasons, is concealed. But, ‘what’ investigative reporting is does not take us very far. To begin to get a more accurate picture requires a bigger focus on ‘why’: why there needs to be a culture of journalism that by its nature is much more in-depth. Read more of this post

CIJ Phone hacking talk w/ David Leigh, Gavin Millar and Jeff Katz

CIJ Phone Hacking Click link for video

Leveson – Videos, transcripts and testimonies (Davies/Peppiatt/McMullan)

Tuesday was a particularly interesting day for the Leveson Inquiry. Peppiatt’s tesimony on the Daily Star was very revealing, if not exactly unsurprising; Nick Davies, the man responsible for exposing phone-hacking, was as erudite and knowledgable as we have come to expect; then, later, there was Paul McMullan, who needs to be experienced to be believed.

See video links, transcripts and statements below:

Morning and afternoon sessions (videos)

Tuesday 29 November 2011 Morning session (Peppiatt/Davies)

Tuesday 29 November 2011 Afternoon session (Davies/McMullan)

Transcripts of interviews by interviewee:

Peppiatt transcript

Davies transcript

McMullan transcript




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