Investigative Journalists Take a Stand in the Name of Public Interest

December 10th, 2014

Fittingly released on International Anti-Corruption Day, 45 investigative journalists from 23 countries around the world signed a letter urging Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, to finish what the European Parliament started in March: the creation of public registers of company ownership information.

The proposed reform, currently being debated under a new anti-money laundering directive, would create registers to collect information on the real, human owner behind every company operating in the EU. Right now, it’s all too easy to set up an anonymous company and use it for money laundering, embezzlement, arms trading, or tax evasion. These activities, with help from the secrecy shell companies provide, contribute to the nearly US$1 trillion that leaves developing countries in illicit financial flows every year. 

The letter was organized by the Illicit Finance Journalism Programme, a group which aims to increase the quantity and quality of stories concerning illicit finance and corruption. The signatories argue that public registers would allow journalists and NGOs to track down corrupt money that’s entering the financial system.

From the letter:

Investigative journalists seeking to challenge corruption rely on the courage of whistleblowers. But equally, we need access to timely information on how companies and trusts are used to funnel corrupt money through the European financial system.

The EU Anti Money Laundering Directive offers an opportunity to ensure that information on the ownership of companies and trusts is available to the public, allowing journalists, NGOs and indeed anyone to monitor the links between suspected criminals and their use of these currently secretive legal structures.

It’s no coincidence that the letter, which was drafted on Friday, gathered more than 40 signatures by early Monday morning. The speed with which journalists signed up is yet another sign of the growing consensus that there’s a need for more public interest journalism.

Read the full letter here.

Written by Christian Freymeyer

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