What should you know when covering corruption?

What should you know when covering corruption?

What types of corruption are there?

The main types of corruption are

  • kickback
  • illicit enrichment
  • bribing foreign officials
What is a kickback?

Kickback is a type of corruption whereby a senior official chooses a specific company among companies providing goods or services, receiving from that company, in turn, a fixed amount or a certain percentage of each transaction.

Kickbacks mainly occur during state agencies' procurement. Assume that a state agency announced that it would purchase furniture, and three companies participated in the tender, one of which won. You have information that the winning company is owned by the brother of the head of that state agency. How to prove this?

How to determine kickback?
  • You must send a query to the state agency asking it to provide all the documents connected to the purchase: who participated, what conditions were offered.

    Though this information is also provided on the state agency's website, it would be right to submit a separate inquiry.

  • After getting an answer, you have to determine who is actually behind the company.

    In such cases, the companies usually have directors who stand in as a formality. The real owner of the company, as a rule, is the head of the state agency, but the company is registered under someone else's name, in order not to leave a trace.

    The journalist's main problem is proving this. 

  • You have to begin a financial investigation.

    After confirming the link between the official and the director of the company providing the service, you must determine through which mechanism money is being transferred from the company to the official.

  • Determine the amount of the kickback

    To determine the amount of kickback, you should compare the proposed price for the good or service with market prices and calculate their difference. You can also contact independent experts and specialists who will help calculate the amount of the kickback. 

What is illicit enrichment?

If suspicion arises regarding a person's income and its compliance with his way of living, in all likelihood, this proves an individual's illicit enrichment. If you see that an official, by law, receives a monthly salary of 300 to 400 thousand AMD [about $630 to $840 USD], but, for example, wears a suit valued at 2 million AMD [$4,215], in all likelihood, the expensive suit is the result of illicit enrichment.

What to do to ascertain illicit enrichment?
  • If you notice this with any official, look into the law and find out that official's salary. If you see that the maximum salary is 300–400 thousand AMD, while his clothing, accessories, and car are more expensive, start talking about this.

  • Send a query to the official, asking him to explain how and from where he has an expensive watch, suit, car — with a monthly salary of 300–400 thousand AMD. In your letter, state in advance that the source of his expensive items doesn't appear in his submitted declarations. He is required to say.

  • If he replies and says the items are gifts from family members, continue to ask where the family members got that money from.

  • If he replies that the family member is engaged in business and she or he purchased it, begin to investigate the family member's business. Contact the state registry to inquire who the founders are, what their dealings are, what purchases the company has made, what trade it does. Send a query to the Customs Service of the Republic of Armenia, to determine whether all customs duties have been applied to the company.

  • If he replies that he received a gift from a friend, know that the law on public service regulates the matter of officials receiving gifts: a gift can be valued at no more than 100,000 AMD [$210]. If the official is getting a gift that's valued more than that, he must publicly declare it. The gift will be considered the property of the state department or agency where the official works. But the received gift has to be related to his authorities and position.

What is bribing foreign officials?

It is the provision of certain financial capital, property, or other services to a foreign official for performing certain actions. For example, providing a holiday to the Maldives to a representative of a foreign state or international organization in return for him to perform or not perform certain actions.

How to determine this?
  • First of all, depending on the official's country and position, you have to determine whether he provides income declarations or not. If he does, then try to acquire them. If they're not available online, but it's possible to find out, either directly contact the authorized entity or find colleagues in that country who will contact the relevant entity and acquire those declarations.

  • After determining the declarations, try to acquire proof of his receiving a bribe. Then, if you know which Armenian citizen paid a bribe, find similar evidence that will show the deficiency in the citizen's property corresponding to the value of the bribe.

What do you have to take into account prior to publishing the story?
  • The presumption of innocence

  • Other individuals' rights: privacy of the person and of family life

  • Public interest

  • Secrets protected by law (secret investigation, state and service secrets, trade secrets)

  • The admissibility of evidence