Our new team investigating London’s role in international corruption

Have you ever wondered to what extent top-paid business execs, lawyers and political advisors in the UK’s capital are enabling oligarchs and dictators around the world? Granted, it may not feel like a pressing concern for most of us day-to-day. But the City of London is the home of international finance and when that involves money laundering, sanctions evasion and reputation management around criminal activity, we deserve to know what’s going on. Because while it’s bad enough that these failures in our systems empower dictators abroad, they’re also damaging democracy and equality across our society. And that is one of the burning global themes of our time.

To tackle this issue head on, we’ve brought together a team of award-winning journalists who are looking to expose this secretive world and the dubious actions by London’s bankers, lawyers, accountants and, yes, even politicians, working for foreign leaders and tycoons. This could include involvement in designing and testing their offshore structures, fighting their legal battles, opening political back doors or polishing their reputations. We want to drill into these activities, as well as loopholes in regulations and laws, to find the winners and losers.

Franz Wild is heading up our new team after more than a decade reporting on corruption for Bloomberg. Isobel Koshiw brings her experience from Global Witness, where her investigations focussed on Russia and Ukraine. Ben Stockton joins after two years investigating Big Tobacco, enormous VAT fraud and issues related to the coronavirus pandemic for the Bureau.

Our work in this area has already generated huge public interest. Last November, more than 2,000 Bureau supporters and other concerned citizens backed our legal bid to force the prime minister to publish the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russian influence. Its publication was blocked just weeks before the UK general election. Now six months on, and with no progress from the prime minister in this area, we have written again to ask him to urgently reconsider his decision not to publish.

The people who came together around our campaign helped kickstart this major new area of investigation for us, and we’ve also secured funding for two years from the Open Society Foundations.

Many think that the influence of oligarchs and dictatorships doesn’t reach our day-to-day lives in the UK, but is that really the case if our businesses and systems are facilitating their power? We don’t know for sure what problems we’re going to find, though our experience has flagged a few and we’ve already received a lot of leads and insider information to help us in our search. When we do uncover the truth of what’s going on behind the scenes, our goal is to share this with the widest public. We want to shine a light on the details, make sure the problems are understood, and show that this is an issue that affects all our lives. The current regulations and regulators are failing to deal with wrongdoing so we’ll be revealing new facts and evidence, which could drive positive changes.

This is not just a story about tax, or even about buying up property – it’s about the UK’s role in enabling damaging global behaviours that our government and our newspapers so regularly condemn. If you want to get in touch, Franz Wild can be contacted at [email protected], Isobel Koshiw can be contacted at [email protected] and Ben Stockton can be contacted at [email protected].

Meet the team

Franz Wild

As editor, Wild will be responsible for shaping the themes the team looks into and originating its stories.

Wild joined the Bureau in May 2020 after 15 years working as a correspondent in Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and the UK. He spent most of that time as a reporter for Bloomberg, for which he covered everything from politics to financial crime.

Wild has dedicated much of his time to investigative projects, exposing the murky relationships and methods of corrupt politicians and tycoons. In Democratic Republic of the Congo, he chronicled the family business empire of former president Joseph Kabila and exposed commodity giant Glencore’s reliance on super-fixer Dan Gertler to secure the world’s biggest cobalt mines. In South Africa, he reported on the corrupt relationship between former president Jacob Zuma and the wealthy Gupta family. In the UK, Wild scrutinised the enforcement efforts by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority.

His work has received numerous awards and has been followed by criminal investigations in the UK, US and beyond.

Isobel Koshiw

Koshiw joined the Bureau in April 2020. She has done investigations on money laundering and organised crime in Russia and Ukraine, often examining the west’s role. Born in the UK, Koshiw started her career in journalism in Ukraine where she worked for the country’s main English-language publication, Kyiv Post. At the paper, she worked on a long-running investigative project on Ukraine’s oligarchs, profiling two of them.

In Ukraine, Koshiw also worked as a freelancer on a long-form investigation into a group of notorious Ukrainian hackers who have made millions of dollars from trading stolen corporate press releases. The story, which details the parallel journeys of the hackers and the stock traders, highlighted how difficult it is for the US to police international cyber crime; Koshiw also broke the news that the gang was responsible for hacking the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Most recently Koshiw worked as an investigator for Global Witness, an anti-corruption campaigning organisation. Her work at Global Witness focused on procurement and money laundering for the Syrian regime through its ally, Russia.

Isobel is a fluent Russian speaker and knows limited Ukrainian.

Ben Stockton

Stockton joined the Bureau in March 2018. His work has focused on global health and tobacco industry lobbying. He worked on a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary aired in February that looked behind the PR campaign of one of the world’s biggest cigarette companies, Philip Morris International, two years after it said that it wanted to give up selling cigarettes. Stockton won the Association of British Science Writers award for investigative journalism for his reporting on superbugs in 2019 and has recently been covering the coronavirus crisis.

Last year, Stockton was one of 63 journalists from 30 countries who analysed thousands of leaked documents that detailed billions of pounds of alleged VAT fraud across Europe.