Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Journalism course: Introduction to Illicit Finance, Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery

From the Center for Investigative Journalism in London, a second course following our highly successful inaugural course at City University in London in March.
Introduction to Illicit Finance, Financial Secrecy and Asset Recovery

City University London
11 November 2013 - 14 November 2013


Following the success of the inaugural training initiative in March this year, the Tax Justice Network and the Centre of Investigative Journalism are organising their second training workshop at City University London.

The course will offer journalists - primarily from the developing world - training in uncovering illicit finance, financial secrecy and asset recovery. We are bringing together journalists from countries where often corruption, tax havens and harmful tax practices stall development and entrench poverty.

In view of the need to develop closer links between journalists working on these issues globally there are also limited places available to paying journalists from the UK and Europe. The course fee for journalists from UK and Europe is £650. Course fees will go towards subsidising travel and accommodation costs for other participants.

This course is aimed at practicing journalists who have an interest in investigating business and the flow of money. Experience in financial reporting is an advantage but not a prerequisite. Class instructions will take place in English.

Application Information

The bursary for journalists from the developing world will cover visa fees, travel, accommodation and per diems for food and travel in London. Due to the limited number of bursaries, applicants will be selected based on their track record in investigative journalism, but you do not need to have a financial background to apply.

The submission deadline is 8 September 2013. Successful applicants will be informed by email by 16 September 2013.

To apply and for more application notes, please click on this online application form.

Course Outline

Over four days you will be shown how to investigate corporate accounts, offshore activity and corporate corruption. We will show you where to find documents, how to analyse them and other practical tools to help uncover financial secrecy.

A combination of hands-on training and guidance from senior practitioners will give you the basis to investigate financial corruption as well as offering the opportunity to network with other journalists.

The exact sessions are subject to change but will follow the format below:

Day 1
The pillars of Offshore and Illicit Finance: Understanding the scale of the problem, the techniques used to avoid, evade and launder and policy responses and relevant institutions.

With John Christensen (director of the Tax Justice Network) and Nicholas Shaxson (author of Treasure Islands and Poisoned Wells), James Henry (director of the Tax Justice Network-USA) via Skype.

9.30 - 10.30am: Introduction to illicit finance and the shadow financial system, brief history, scale and case study.

10.30 - 11.45: The Pillars of Illicit Finance: Part One
1) Tax Havens and Financial Centres
2) Beneficial Ownership, Trusts and the role of lawyers

Coffee break: 10-15 mins

12-13.30: The Pillars of Illicit Finance: Part Two
3) Shell Companies
4) Corporate Accounting including transfer pricing and the use of subsidiaries
5) The banking system

Lunch break: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch

14.30-15.45: The global initiatives to combat financial secrecy and illicit financial flows (15 minutes each component)
1)    A quick breakdown of the world’s major institutions dealing with illicit finance, their outputs & initiatives
2)    Tax Automatic Information Exchange – what is it, why is it important and what’s happening?
3)    Country-by-Country Reporting – what is it, why is it important and what’s happening?
4)    Beneficial ownership – what’s happening in legislative terms
5)    Anti money laundering initiatives – what’s happening
6)    Transfer Pricing – what it is and how to counter it

Coffee break: 10-15 mins

16.00 - 17.30: Asset Recovery - What happened in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt? What are the challenges faced by journalists reporting this agenda?

18.15 onwards: Optional drinks and networking reception for delegates and trainers

Day 2
How to understand company accounts: Analyse financial statements including those all important accounting policies such as revenue recognition – the key to unpicking many suspect accounts – and which notes to the accounts to focus on and why.

With Raj Bairoliya (the UK's leading forensic accountant)

09.30 - 10.30: Motivation to massage earnings.
10.30 - 11.15: Profit and loss account

Coffee break: 10-15 mins

11.30 - 12.30: Balance sheet
12.30 - 13.30: Funds flow statement

Lunch: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided.

14.30 - 15.30: Notes

Coffee break: 10-15 mins

15.45 - 17.00: Putting it all together
17.00 - 17.30: Interactive session building up a sample set of accounts or case study questions

Day 3
Examining case studies: How to bring home investigations in developing and developed countries.

With Richard Brooks (a former tax inspector with Her Majesty’s Tax and Revenue now regarded by some as the UK’s best journalist on tax avoidance/evasion).

Lunch - 13.00 - 14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided.

The rest of the afternoon will continue in the same room.

Richard Brooks will go through the practical steps he took to bring home influential and powerful investigations on SAB Miller’s tax avoidance in Ghana, Associated British Food’s tax avoidance in Zambia and a series of stories he wrote on Vodafone’s tax structure.

Suggested reading
SAB Miller’s tax avoidance in Ghana,
Associated British Food’s tax avoidance in Zambia

Day 4 Targeting investigations: Develop specific story leads and get advice and guidance from the trainers to further their investigations. Attendees are requested to think of at least 2-3 story ideas or leads for this day.

With Jesse Drucker (Bloomberg investigative reporter), Nick Mathiason and others tbc

Lunch break: 13.00-14.00 - a light sandwich lunch will be provided.

Jesse’s painstaking work has uncovered corporate tax dodging at some of the world’s most powerful companies including Cisco, Yahoo, Dell and Merck. Jesse will spend an hour taking attendees through the documents and show how they generated stories. After this introductory session, attendees will be divided into small groups and Jesse, assisted by other financial journalists and writers, will help develop attendees’ leads, stories and themes.

Suggested readingGoogle and the $60bn tax dodge by Jesse Drucker
Reports from Publish What You Pay, Norway on Price of Offshore Revisited and Piping Profits by Nick Mathiason.

Day 5 (optional)
Delegates have the opportunity to attend the second Offshore Alert Conference London which will be taking place on 14 and 15 November.

We would like to thank Offshore Alert's editor David Marchant for providing press passes to delegates from the illicit finance workshop

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