Introduction to Illicit Finance, Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery

    City University London
    19 March 2013 - 22 March 2013

    The Tax Justice Network and the Centre of Investigative Journalism at City University London are offering journalists primarily from the developing world training in illicit finance, financial secrecy and asset recovery. We are bringing together journalists from countries where often corruption, tax havens and harmful tax practices harm development processes and entrench poverty.

    However, there is a need to also develop closer links between journalists working on these issues globally. So there are currently limited places available to paying journalists from the UK and Europe.

    The course fee for journalists from UK and Europe is £500. Course fees will go towards subsidising travel and accommodation costs for other participants. If you are interested in attending, please contact

    We are no longer accepting applications for this inaugural training programme.
    However we may receive funding to organise more training events later this year so if you are interested in attending, please register your interest for possible future events using this online form.

    Course Outline

    You can view one of the powerpoint presentations from this course online: Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery Presentation

    Over four days you will be shown how to investigate corporate accountsoffshore 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. 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

    The structure of the course is close to being finalised but will follow the format below:

    Venue: City University London, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB.

    Day 1 (Drysdale Building, please use the Northampton Square entrance, Room E313)
    9.00 - 9.30: Registration and refreshments

    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 Tom Mayne (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 will be provided in Room ELG18 in Drysdale Building (lower ground floor level)

    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: Asset Recovery - What happened in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt? What are the challenges faced by journalists reporting this agenda?

    18.15 onwards: Optional drinks and networking reception for delegates and trainers at The Blacksmith & The Toffeemaker, 292 St Johns Street.

    Day 2 (College Building, Room A107)
    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 (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 - 12.30: Balance sheet
    12.30 - 13.30: Funds flow statement

    Lunch: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided in Room A303 in College Building (3rd floor)

    14.30 - 15.30: Notes

    Coffee break: 10-15 mins

    15.45 - 17.00: Putting it all together
    17.00 - 17.30: Interactive session building up a sample set of accounts or case study questions

    Day 3 (Social Sciences Building, Room DLG20)
    Examining case studies: How to bring home investigations in developing and developed countries.
    With Richard Brooks (a 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 Richard Murphy (one of the most influential tax campaigners and policy advocates; he came up with the Country by Country reporting concept now law in the US and set to become law in the EU).

    Lunch - 13.00 - 14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided in Room D106 in Social Sciences Building (1st floor)

    The rest of the afternoon will continue in the same room.

    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.
    Suggested reading - SAB Miller’s tax avoidance in Ghana, Associated British Food’s tax avoidance in Zambia

    Richard Murphy will explain the practical steps he took to bring home, Heavy Mittal, an investigation on the Mittal group of companies and its Mining Development Agreement with Liberia as well as how he helped UK Sunday Times journalists report the tax avoiding strategies deployed by Google, Facebook and other international corporate giants.
    Suggested reading - Heavy Mittal

    Day 4 (Drysdale Building, Room EG04)
    Targeting investigations: Develop specific story leads and get advice and guidance from the trainers to further their investigations. Attendees are requested to come with at least 2-3 story ideas or leads for this day. Please submit them to by 10 March.
    With Jesse Drucker (Bloomberg investigative reporter) and Nick Mathiason, others tbc

    Lunch break: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided in Room ELG18 in Drysdale Building (lower ground floor level)

    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.

    Suggested reading - Google and the $60bn tax dodge by Jess Drucker,  reports from Publish What You Pay, Norway on Price of Offshore Revisited and Piping Profits by Nick Mathiason