Let’s expose corrupt networks

THE latest global investigative story published a few days ago by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in collaboration with over 100 other news organisations around the world exposing offshore links of some of the planet’s most prominent people, is ground-breaking.

Editor’s Memo Dumisani Muleya
dmuleya@zimind.co.zw

It is reminiscent of disclosures in 2010 by WikiLeaks, which included more than 400 000 Iraq and Afghanistan war diaries and over 250 000 diplomatic cables, led by Julian Assange.

While governments said WikiLeaks went beyond the call of professional and ethical journalism from a national security perspective, from a purely journalistic point of view the exposé represented the triumph of investigative journalism.

In terms of size, the Panama Papers are perhaps the biggest leak of inside information in history — more than 11,5 million documents.

The explosive leak exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly salted away as much as US$2 billion through banks and shadow companies.

The files contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist, an unfolding political money laundering affair in Brazil and bribery allegations convulsing world football governing body, Fifa.

They also provide details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 other politicians and public officials around the world and show how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

The Panama Papers expose offshore companies controlled by the Prime Ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the King of Saudi Arabia and children of the President of Azerbaijan. They also include the names of at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the United States because of evidence of doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organisations like Hezbollah or rogue nations, including North Korea and Iran.

The records — which were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from nearly 80 countries — come from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca.

The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets. Its leaked internal files contain information on 214 000 offshore companies connected to people in 200 countries and territories.

This is what we need in Zimbabwe, especially now that corruption and looting are almost like the new normal. We need systematic, not sporadic and half-hearted, investigative journalism to shed light in the darkest corners of the state, government and society in general.

In the process, we have to expose abuse of office, power and corruption. Investigative journalism helps to tell truth to power and holds those in powerful positions in the public and private sectors, as well as society to account.

There is so much corruption in Zimbabwe, including in the media, and ethical journalists must fight to expose shady barons and their corruption networks.

The country is teeming with business fronts, crony capitalists and thieves masquerading as entrepreneurs. There are so many dubious elements who have made money through the corrupt nexus between business and politics. Cronyism in the awarding of tenders, legal permits and licences or other forms of state interventionism is rife.

Tenderpreneurs, government officials, including ministers, living beyond their means and dodgy private sector tycoons in this country are generally an embodiment of corruption. They are thieves in expensive suits, driving flashy cars.

Many businesspeople in Zimbabwe, especially the flamboyant but foolish and uncivilised young ones of the lumpen variety, are creatures of corruption. Investigate their background and wealth; invariably you unearth dirty sleaze and criminality.

The media must expose all these underworld criminals and their loot or rot. Investigative journalism matters as it not only exposes malpractices in business and politics, as well as social evils and venality, but also contributes to accountability, democratic governance and progress.