Introduction to Illicit Finance, Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery Spring 2014

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

    City University London, Northampton Square, EC1V 0HB
    8 April 2014 - 11 April 2014

    The Tax Justice Network and the Centre of Investigative Journalism have announced the dates for the third 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. The application deadline for this round is over and final participants have been contacted. 

    Should you wish to apply for a future course or for more information on application criteria, please click on this online application form.

    Course Outline

    The course will take place each day from 9.30 - 17.30.

    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.

    Day one (Room C143, Tait Building)
    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 (director of the Tax Justice Network-USA) via Skype  and Robert Palmer (senior campaigner at Global Witness).

    18.00 - Networking drinks (optional) for delegates and trainers at The Blacksmith & The Toffeemaker, 292 St Johns Street. This is just a 5 min walk from the University training venue. 

    Day two (Room C161, Tait Building)
    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, 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 three (Room C143, Tait Building)
    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). And Martin Tomkinson will go through how to go about finding company data on Companies House as well as what is available in other jurisdictions.

    13.00 - 14.00 Lunch 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.

    Felicity Lawrence is the Guardian’s special correspondent. Felicity 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.

    PLUS: What you need to know to report on Asset Recovery Stories with Alan Bacarese Special Counsel at Peters & Peters law firm 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 four (Room C143, Tait Building)
    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 12.45 - 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 break - a light sandwich lunch will be provided.

    14.00-18.00 - 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.