ICFJ Partner Publishes Investigation for Khadija Project

Jun 112015

ICFJ's longtime partner, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), has published another major investigation on its Khadija Project website, named after Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

In a story called “Azerbaijani First Family Big on Banking,” OCCRP reported that members of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family and some close advisers “are significant shareholders in at least eight major Azerbaijan banks. They control assets in those institutions worth more than US$ 3 billion.”

The investigation began with Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist and OCCRP partner who was arrested on December 5, 2014. In February, Ismayilova was charged with embezzlement, illegal trading, tax evasion and abuse of authority. While no date has been set for her trial, her pre-trial detention has gone on for six months, with a three-month extension granted in mid-May. International press freedom and human rights groups have condemned Ismayilova’s detention.

To coincide with Ismayilova's birthday, OCCRP launched the Khadija Project, a project which vows to continue the work she was doing before her arrest.

ICFJ was instrumental in the creation of OCCRP, as its founders Paul Radu, a former ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow, and Drew Sullivan first met in Bulgaria at a 2003 ICFJ training. Since 2011, ICFJ has overseen a $6.3 million grant to OCCRP for its Regional Investigative Journalism Network program, which has brought together more than a dozen media watchdogs and independent media outlets across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. ICFJ's oversight of that grant continues until 2017.

Earlier this year, the OCCRP was awarded the Special Award by the European Press Prize, describing OCCRP as a "motivated, determined force for good everywhere it operates. Its members do not get rich, but the societies they serve are richer and cleaner for the scrutiny only true, independent journalism can provide.”