ICFJ Partner OCCRP Wins Global Data Journalism Award for Cross-Border Investigative Project

The impact of Troika Laundromat was immediate and widespread, including probes into Russia's most powerful leaders. Photo: OCCRP

An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) that exposed a complex financial system that enabled corruption by Russian oligarchs and politicians won the 2020 Sigma Award for best data-driven reporting. OCCRP is a long-time partner of ICFJ.  

Nominated in the best data-driven reporting (large newsrooms) category, the OCCRP investigation, “The Troika Laundromat,” began with a massive leak of banking records, involving some 1.3 million transactions from 238,000 companies. After meticulous analysis, OCCRP and its partners uncovered a system aimed to move billions of dollars out of Russia. 

“The security and scrutiny undertaken for a project of this size is evident, with real consequences for political leaders,” jury members said in their comments. “The showcasing of detail in networks, locations and personalities embellished an already strong entry. This project in places read part thriller, part blockbuster, part spy movie. Do yourself a favour and dive in.”

OCCRP is a network of investigative journalists that was co-founded by former ICFJ Knight Fellow Paul Radu and veteran journalist Drew Sullivan. It connects 45 nonprofit investigative centers in 34 countries, scores of journalists and several major regional news organizations across Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. 

The Sigma Awards are a new competition to celebrate the best data journalism from around the world. OCCRP partnered on the investigation with The Guardian in the UK, Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, Newstapa in South Korea, El Periodico in Spain, Global Witness and 17 others.

In a field of strong entries from outlets such as the Financial Times and The Washington Post, jury members said they appreciated “the substantial effort, investment and not inconsiderable risk” that the reporters took to undertake such an expansive investigation.

The impact of the Troika Laundromat investigation was immediate and widespread, according to OCCRP. Two of the banks deeply involved in the Laundromate saw their shares tumble. It also ignited investigations into some of Russia's most powerful politicians, including an investigation in Spain into the property owned by the family of Sergei Chemezov – the president of the main State-owned technology conglomerate in Russia. 

“Overall, the Troika Laundromat put the European banking system under increased scrutiny and is currently brought up in the European institutions as a main reason to clean up the European financial system,” the Sigma Awards website says. 

Code for Africa shortlisted for award

Map Makoko, a project by Code for Africa — another ICFJ partner — was shortlisted in the open data category. The team used drones to map Makoko, one of Africa's largest slums, in order to improve service delivery for residents.

Code for Africa partnered with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Agency France Press in Nigeria.

Established by ICFJ Knight Fellow Justin Arenstein with support from ICFJ, Code for Africa helps media organizations across Africa adopt new forms of storytelling — from interactive maps to drones — and better engage audiences in the news.

The newly launched Sigma Awards, supported by the Google News Initiative, received 510 nominations from 66 countries and regions this year. The jury consisted of 24 international experts. Award winners will present their work at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, in April. 

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