Introduction to Illicit Finance, Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery

    This course is aimed at practicing journalists who have an interest in investigating business and the flow of money.

    City University London
    11 November 2013 - 15 November 2013

    Following the success of the inaugural training initiative in March this year, the Tax Justice Network and the Centre of Investigative Journalism are organising their second training workshop at City University London.

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

    In view of the need to develop closer links between journalists working on these issues globally there are also limited places available to paying journalists from the UK and Europe. The course fee for journalists from UK and Europe is £650. Course fees will go towards subsidising travel and accommodation costs for other participants.

    This course is aimed at practicing journalists who have an interest in investigating business and the flow of money. Experience in financial reporting is an advantage but not a prerequisite. Class instructions will take place in English.

    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.

    Registration for the November course is now closed but you are welcome to apply at anytime by clicking on the application form link below and your application will be considered for the next training round in Spring 2014.

    To apply and for more application notes, please click on this online application form.

    Course Outline

    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 exact sessions are subject to change but will follow the format below:

    Registrations and Coffee will take place from 9am onwards at the ground floor coffee shop called “Cafe Direct” just past the security barriers and to the right of the main reception of College Building.  The first session will start at 9.30am in Room A225. If you are late, please make your way to Room A225.

    Day 1 (Room A225, Second floor, College Building)
    The pillars of Offshore and Illicit Finance: Understanding the scale of the problem, 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 (director of the Tax Justice Network-USA) via Skype and Global Witness.

    9.30 - 10.30am: Introduction to illicit finance and the shadow financial system, brief history, scale and case study.

    10.30 - 11.45: The Pillars of Illicit Finance: Part One
    1) Tax Havens and Financial Centres
    2) Beneficial Ownership, Trusts and the role of lawyers

    Coffee break: 10-15 mins

    12-13.30: The Pillars of Illicit Finance: Part Two
    3) Shell Companies
    4) Corporate Accounting including transfer pricing and the use of subsidiaries
    5) The banking system

    Lunch break: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch

    14.30-15.45: The global initiatives to combat financial secrecy and illicit financial flows (15 minutes each component)
    1)    A quick breakdown of the world’s major institutions dealing with illicit finance, their outputs & initiatives
    2)    Tax Automatic Information Exchange – what is it, why is it important and what’s happening?
    3)    Country-by-Country Reporting – what is it, why is it important and what’s happening?
    4)    Beneficial ownership – what’s happening in legislative terms
    5)    Anti money laundering initiatives – what’s happening
    6)    Transfer Pricing – what it is and how to counter it

    Coffee break: 10-15 mins

    16.00 - 17.30: How to investigate a bank? With Rob Palmer (Global Witness)

    18.00 onwards: Optional drinks and networking reception for delegates and trainers at The Blacksmith & The Toffeemaker, 292 St Johns Street. This is just around the corner from the University training venue.

    Day 2 (Room AG02, Ground floor, College Building)
    How to understand company accounts: Analyse financial statements including those all important accounting policies such as revenue recognition – the key to unpicking many suspect accounts – and 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
    Lunch: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided.
    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 3 (Room A225, Second floor, College Building)
    How to bring home investigations in developing and developed countries.
    With Richard Brooks (author of the Great British 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 Jesse Drucker (Bloomberg investigative reporter)

    Lunch - 13.00 - 14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided.

    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.

    Jesse’s painstaking work has uncovered corporate tax dodging at some of the world’s most powerful companies including Cisco, Yahoo, Dell and Merck. Jesse will spend an hour taking attendees through the documents and show how they generated stories. After this introductory session, attendees will be divided into small groups and Jesse, assisted by other financial journalists and writers, will help develop attendees’ leads, stories and themes.

    PLUS: What you need to know to report on Asset Recovery Stories (Special Counsel and a leading UK and international anti-corruption expert previously at the International Centre for Asset Recovery).

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

    Day 4 (Please note: we will be moving rooms before lunch. Morning begins in Room A109, First floor, College Building)
    9am to 10.00am Tax incentives:  Offered to international investors to encourage Foreign Direct Investment, tax incentives can deny countries vital revenue.They are often based on secretive lobbying  and can occasionally be  corruption. What are the options of investigating individual tax incentive deals and working collaboratively? (Action Aid)

    10:15 to 12:00 The steps you need to maximise your safety and produce results when investigating corruption - Paul Holden (Director of Investigations at Corruption Watch)

    Coffee break and move to Computer Room AG35a, Ground floor, College Building

    Lunch break: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided back in Room A109, First floor, College Building.

    Rest of the afternoon continues in Computer Room AG35a, Ground floor, College Building
    13.00-18.00 - Targeting investigations: Developing collaborative projects and specific story leads. Advice and guidance from the trainers to further particpants' investigations. Attendees are requested to think of at least 2-3 story ideas or leads for this day.
    With Paul Holden, John Christensen and Nick Mathiason and other trainers.

    Suggested reading
    Reports from Publish What You Pay, Norway on Price of Offshore Revisited and Piping Profits by Nick Mathiason.
    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.

    Day 5 (Bloomsbury Hotel, 16-22 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NN)
    Delegates have the opportunity to attend the second Offshore Alert Conference London which will be taking place on 14 and 15 November. More details and the programme can be found on their website -

    We would like to thank Offshore Alert's editor David Marchant for providing press passes to delegates from the illicit finance workshop.