Introduction to Illicit Finance, Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery Spring 2015

    The Tax Justice Network and the Centre of Investigative Journalism are pleased to hold the fifth training workshop at City University London.  #FinanceUncovered

    This course is aimed at practicing journalists who are keen to investigate tax avoidance, corruption, money laundering and asset recovery. 

    Venue details: 

    Room R101 in Franklin Building, 124 Goswell Road, City University London, London EC1V 7DP
    12 May 2015 - 15 May 2015

    Link to venue on Google Maps.

    Course Outline

    The course offers journalists - primarily from the developing world - training in uncovering illicit finance, financial secrecy and asset recovery. We bring together journalists from countries where often corruption, tax havens and harmful tax practices stall development and entrench poverty.

    To develop closer links between journalists working on these issues throughout the world, there are also limited places available to paying journalists from the UK, Europe and North America. The course fee for journalists from UK and Europe is £650. Course fees go towards subsidising travel and accommodation costs for other participants.


    Application Information
    The bursary for journalists from the developing world will cover visa fees, travel, accommodation and per diems for food and travel in London. Due to the limited number of bursaries, applicants will be selected based on their track record in investigative journalism. But you do not need to have a financial background to apply. Class instructions will take place in English.

    To apply for future courses in Autumn 2015 course please fill in the online application form. Please do not copy and paste entire articles into the form, where possible, please provide links or a few lines summary of the article and date of publication.


    Over four days you will be shown how to investigate corporate accounts, offshore activity and corporate corruption. We will show you where to find documents, how to analyse them and other practical tools to help uncover financial secrecy.

    A combination of hands-on training and guidance from senior practitioners will give you the basis to investigate financial corruption as well as offering the opportunity to network with other journalists.

    The course aims to help participants understand: 

    • the building blocks of the offshore world
    • how to access and interpret company accounts
    • where to access other company information
    • the methodology behind the groundbreaking tax avoidance investigations – Google, SAB Miller and Vodafone – by the journalists who conducted them
    • how to investigate and report corruption stories
    • the steps required to keep safe and minimise personal risk
    • how to track the international policy agenda relating to illicit financial flows

    Day one 
    Registration from 9am onwards for a 9.30am start.

    An introduction to the world of offshore and illicit finance to help you understand the roots and history of offshore, its scale, the techniques used to avoid, evade and launder, and policy responses and relevant institutions.

    With John Christensen (director of the Tax Justice Network) and Nicholas Shaxson (author of Treasure Islands and Poisoned Wells), James Henry (economist, attorney and investigative journalist), Joe Stead (Christian Aid's senior economic justice adviser) and Robert Palmer (senior campaigner at Global Witness).

    18.00 - Networking drinks (optional) for delegates and trainers at Blacksmith and Toffeemakers 

    Day two 
    How to understand company accounts by analysing financial statements including those all important accounting policies such as revenue recognition – the key to unpicking many suspect accounts – which notes to the accounts to focus on and why. With Raj Bairoliya (the UK's leading forensic accountant)

    09.30 - 10.30 Motivation to massage earnings
    10.30 - 11.15 Profit and loss account

    Coffee break 10-15 mins

    11.30 - 13.30 Balance sheet and Funds flow statement
    13.00 - 14.00 Lunch
    14.30 - 15.30 Notes to accounts

    Coffee break: 10-15 mins

    15.45 - 17.30 Putting it all together and an interactive session building up a sample set of accounts or case study questions

    Day three 
    9. 00 am start. A range of speakers will go through specific skills and methodology. 

    Jenna Corderoy will show participants how to get the most out of the Freedom of Information Act.

    Martin Tomkinson will go through how to find company data on Companies House as well as what corporate information is available in other jurisdictions.

    13.00 - 14.00 Lunch

    How to bring home investigations in developing and developed countries: with Richard Brooks (author of the Great Tax Robbery, former tax inspector with Her Majesty’s Tax and Revenue now regarded by some as the UK’s best journalist on tax avoidance/evasion) and Felicity Lawrence (the Guardian special correspondent).

    Richard Brooks will go through the practical steps he took to bring home influential and powerful investigations on SAB Miller’s tax avoidance in Ghana, Associated British Food’s tax avoidance in Zambia and a series of stories he wrote on Vodafone’s tax structure.

    Felicity Lawrence was a key member of the paper’s Tax Gap team which revealed over two weeks the techniques used by some of the world’s biggest companies to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in tax. Felicity also exposed industrial scale tax avoidance by Barclays Bank.

    Suggested reading:
    SAB Miller’s tax avoidance in Ghana, Associated British Food’s tax avoidance in Zambia, Google and the $60bn tax dodge

    Day four 

    9.30 - Workshop with an independent Anti-Money Laundering (AML) senior adviser

    10.45 to 13.00 - The steps you need to maximise your safety and produce results when investigating corruption with Paul Holden (director of investigations at Corruption Watch)

    13.00-14.00 Lunch

    14.00-15.00 - Johnny West, founder of Open Oil, will explain how to scrutinise oil contracts and give an overview of the oil and gas industries.

    15.00-16.00 - John Christensen on the rapid policy round up.

    16.00-17.00 - Targeting investigations: developing collaborative projects and specific story leads. Advice and guidance from the trainers to further participants' investigations. With Paul Holden, John Christensen and Nick Mathiason.

    Suggested further reading:
    Reports from TJN on Price of Offshore Revisited and Publish What You Pay Norway on Piping Profits.
    Heavy Mittal is an investigation on the Mittal group of companies and its Mining Development Agreement with Liberia, conducted by Richard Murphy and Global Witness.

    Twitter: #FinanceUncovered