Catch and Release:
Organisation: African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) (South Africa)
Publication Date: 03/29/2015
DescriptionThe project, an investigation published in the World Policy Journal (under the umbrella of the US-based World Policy Institute) primarily utilised publicly accessible data to unveil a $180 million global ponzi scheme run by the Capital Organization. The Capital network used over 30 different shell companies (including fake websites, virtual or services offices etc), marketed by more than one dozen brokers, to promote fake unregulated alternative investment projects allegedly based in African countries such as Sierra Leone, South Africa, Liberia etc while numerous tax havens from Cyprus to Dubai and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) were used to circulate siphoned funds. The clients were mainly pensioners based in the UK in addition to corporate investors. The Capital network used a system of 'bait and switch' ie: transferring clients from one 'distressed asset' to the next. Financial receiving agents used by the Capital organization directly remitted monies to conduit entities based in secondary tax havens (such as Cyprus) before being remitted to final entities such as BVI. We published evidence online to ensure that readers had access to some of the key documents informing the investigation.
Technologies used for this project:We relied on publicly accessible data such as court records in the UK, US, etc; corporate data (Duedil), Whois and other electronic tracking sources for websites, IP addresses etc; deep-mining internet searches (configurated around phrases such as "Capital Alternatives" filetype: pdf), among other online resources. We used Investigative Dashboard (ID) for free access to more expensive corporate data as well as Investigative Dashboard's in-country researcher based in Sierra Leone. We also relied on ANCIR's virtual iLab for cross-examination of evidence, forensics and technology experts to help us assess the veracity of information. sourceAfrica was used to load evidence published simultaneously. The investigation had a total budget of $500 funded by Open Society West Africa. These monies were wholly invested in one aspect of the investigation - Sierra Leone, to visit sites, interview communities, employees and officials.
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