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The UK as a key nexus for protecting media freedom and preventing corruption globally

Article by Susan Coughtrie

December 9, 2020

The UK as a key nexus for protecting media freedom and preventing corruption globally

In January 2020, a libel case against Paul Radu, an investigative reporter and co-founder of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), was dropped on the eve of the trial opening at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.[1] An agreed settlement meant the articles that had sparked the defamation claim against him stayed on OCCRP’s website albeit with a qualifying statement that the claimant “categorically denies involvement in money laundering or any unlawful activity.”[2]


The resolution of Radu’s case was not picked up by the media and a casual observer might wonder what might be particularly newsworthy. Libel cases happen all the time. It is surely a sign of a healthy democracy to have the right to defend yourself against claims you consider spurious. But as Radu put himself, when writing about the experience a month later, “So, how does a Romanian reporter — or, for that matter, any foreign journalist — get sued in the United Kingdom by an Azerbaijani politician for an article about corruption taking place hundreds of miles away?”[3]


The case is important in highlighting two worrying, and interlinked, trends. Firstly, the enduring role London continues to hold as an international libel capital, despite reforms to English and Welsh law in 2013 intended to crack down on libel tourism, and the impact such legal action, or even the threat of it, in the UK can have on journalists here and abroad.[4] Secondly, the level to which UK financial and legal systems are involved in the facilitation of international financial crime and corruption, particularly involving political elites in countries with less than stellar democratic records. These trends sit at direct odds with the UK’s claim to be a global leader in the fight against illicit finance as well as a promoter of media freedom and safety of journalists around the world, having spearheaded, together with Canada, a Global Pledge on Media Freedom in 2019.[5]


The Azerbaijani Laundromat

The articles that had prompted the defamation action against Radu were part of OCCRP’s investigation into a corrupt scheme they named the ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat,’ published in September 2017. Their work revealed a “complex money-laundering operation and slush fund that handled $2.9 billion over a two-year period through four shell companies registered in the UK.”[6] OCCRP reported that between 2012-14, members of Azerbaijan’s political elite were using these funds to “pay off European politicians, buy luxury goods, launder money, and otherwise benefit themselves.”[7] This was taking place against the backdrop of a severe crackdown inside the country on civil society and independent media, including the adoption of regressive legislation limiting the activities of independent organisations as well as the arrests and convictions of many activists, human rights defenders, and journalists on politically motivated charges.[8]


Amongst those arrested was Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent independent investigative journalist who has been instrumental in uncovering corruption at the highest levels of Azerbaijani society, often linked with UK registered companies. As a consequence of her reporting Ismayilova has been subject to a wide variety of harassment over the last decade, from blackmail to public shaming, accusations of espionage, judicial persecution and arbitrary imprisonment.[9] In February 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Ismayilova’s rights had been violated when she was arrested in December 2014 and subsequently sentenced to seven and half years as there was no ‘reasonable suspicion’ she committed the crime she was accused of, rather it was an attempt to silence her journalism.[10] While Ismayilova was released from prison in May 2016, her sentence has not been overturned and – despite several ECtHR rulings in her favour – she is still subject to probationary measures, including a travel ban, which has effectively locked her inside the country.[11]


Ismayilova was part of the team that worked on OCCRP’s Azerbaijani Laundromat and despite her own persecution continued to support Radu through his libel case in London. During the two years it took the case to come to the trial stage, OCCRP journalists continued their investigation, collecting new information and strengthening their story, which, due to disclosure rules, they were required to share with their opponent who ultimately decided to settle.[12] While the outcome can be seen as positive, the cost, financially as well as in time and effort, of a two-year legal battle – before even reaching trial, arbitrarily brought in London – should not be underestimated.


The UK as a leading source of legal threats against journalists

In November 2020, the Foreign Policy Centre published a report outlining the findings of a global survey, conducted in September – October 2020, with the participation of 63 investigative journalists in 41 countries who work on uncovering financial crime and corruption. Legal threats were identified, by the 71 per cent of the respondents who reported experiencing threats, to have the most impact on their ability to continue working, more so than physical, psychosocial or digital threats.[13] This is reflective of the high volume of potential legal challenges being received, and the cumulative effect that they can have. 73 per cent of all respondents to the survey stated they had received communication(s) threatening legal action as a result of information they had published. More than half of those stated that it made them more cautious as a result.


While it is impossible to evaluate the proportion of, and extent to which, the legal challenges respondents reported could be justified, there is evidence that vexatious legal action against journalists has been on the rise. When the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in 2017, she had 47 civil libel suits open against her “most of them brought by Maltese politicians and their business associates,” which she described “as an intimidation strategy as they retreat[ed] under siege” from her reporting into their corrupt practices.[14] After her murder, Caruana Galizia’s family accused the UK based law firm Mishcon de Reya of ‘hounding’ their mother.[15]


Intimidation is a key hallmark of vexatious legal action referred to as strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP), where there are no reasonable grounds for a legal case, but rather the intention is to stop or suppress reporting.[16] The aim is not necessarily to reach court where the truth might come to light but rather to scare journalists into complying. SLAPPs are examined in more detail in this publication in the contributions from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and Index on Censorship, organisations actively documenting the rise of SLAPPS across Europe in recent years. Both point to England as a legal jurisdiction commonly utilised for SLAPP cases.


This was also reflected in the finding from FPC’s survey that the UK is by the far the most frequent international country of origin for legal threats after the journalists’ home countries. The UK was almost as frequent a source of these legal threats (31 per cent), as the EU countries (24 per cent) and the United States (11 per cent) combined. There have been a growing number of foreign freelance journalists, and news outlets without staff and offices in the UK, that have reported receiving letters from London law firms acting on behalf of the people they are investigating.[17]


Journalists based abroad therefore remain concerned about libel laws in the UK in a way that they simply do not in other countries. For example, the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), which covers countries in Southern and Eastern Europe, created a guide specifically on English libel law that is mandatory reading for all its journalists. One of the last sections is particularly telling: “For now, our advice regarding third-country libel suits (i.e. not in your country and not in England) is straightforward: I. Know the law in your own country; II. Know the law in England; III. Assume that any third country would be just as strict on libel as England.”[18]


Now seems the right time to return to Radu’s question. Why are foreign journalists being threatened with legal action in the UK? And how?


Part of the reason the UK remains an attractive jurisdiction is that it is seen as easier to win libel cases in than other parts of the world. This is largely because the ‘burden of proof’ in a UK libel case is on the defendant – i.e. it is not up to the plaintiff to prove that the statement in question is false, rather the defendant must prove that the statement is true – which is often a far harder task than it might at first appear.[19] Investigative journalists are usually in the business of presenting facts, rather than drawing conclusions as to what they might mean. However, as Radu notes “[I]n British courts, a judge determines what your carefully crafted wording means to them as a legal matter. They may decide the ‘legal meaning’ was that someone was the new godfather and had taken over the local crime group. Now you have to prove that judge’s legal meaning in court with real proof, even though you never said it, and maybe never meant it.”


Moreover, fighting a defamation case in the UK is a lengthy and expensive process, with potential legal costs spiralling into the thousands if not millions – some of which will not be recoverable even if you win.[20] Therefore, it is understandable why many, often cash-strapped, media outlets would rather comply with the demand to change or remove content than face legal action, even if they know what they have written is true.[21] Due to the common practice in British journalism of offering a ‘right to reply’ to individuals mentioned in an article, these legal challenges can happen prior to publication. If successful the public will be denied the right to know, not only about the information at question but even the fact that a legal challenge against the journalist or media outlet took place.


Despite legal reform in 2013 aimed at reducing the impact of libel tourism, it nevertheless holds that you do not have to be British or resident in the UK full time to bring a case. It is only necessary to demonstrate a connection that could establish your ‘standing’ – e.g. a home or business – and that the article in question was read in the UK. As Radu points out when examining his own case, “London is a major real-estate hub that attracts the wealthy and powerful from all over the world — including many people of interest to those reporting on corruption… and its not hard to demonstrate a few British IP addresses accessed the investigative materials.”[22] When looked at in this way, the bar for meeting the criteria can be considered quite low, taking into account that it is easy for those with ample funds not only to purchase property in the UK but also effectively buy residency and eventually citizenship via investment visas.[23] And there is no shortage of companies based in the UK ready to facilitate this for those rich enough to afford it.


Further tightening of UK laws to reduce the possibility of libel tourism would be a welcome next step, however it would not improve the situation for journalists and media outlets based in the UK. One potentially positive development, however, is that in 2019 the Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, ruled that claimants must demonstrate that they have suffered ‘serious harm’ in order to bring a defamation case.[24] This places an onus on claimants to produce evidence that their reputation has been ‘seriously harmed’, with profit-making entities required to show that they suffered serious financial loss, but it will nevertheless be for judges to decide the merits of individual cases.


The London Laundromat

The term ‘laundromat’ was coined by Radu to define large scale, all-purpose financial fraud vehicles that are used to launder billions of dollars.[25] It is now in common parlance amongst those working in the anti-corruption field but garnered some official recognition in July 2020, with the release of ‘The Russia Report’ by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). This report examines potential aspects of the ‘Russian threat to the UK’ and is fairly damning in its findings that “Successive Governments have welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’, and connections at the highest levels with access to UK companies and political figures.”[26] The ISC’s report goes on to note that “This has led to a growth industry of ‘enablers’ including lawyers, accountants, and estate agents who are – wittingly or unwittingly – de facto agents of the Russian state.”[27]


So far the UK Government response to The Russia Report has been lacklustre, and it has point blank refused to order an independent investigation or public inquiry into another interlinked aspect of the report – Russian interference into UK elections.[28] The remit of the ISC was limited to examining the situation regarding Russia, but in reality the ‘London Laundromat’ and the connected industry of enablers is being utilised by corrupt figures and shady businesses from all over the world. Investigations into transnational financial crime and corruption are rarely published without the mention of some intermediary shell company based in a UK jurisdiction or the funds ultimately being used to pay for property, education or indeed legal and reputation services in the UK. Ben Cowdock and Rachel Davis of Transparency International UK (TI-UK), provide insight into the UK’s complicity in global corruption in their essay for this publication, describing the scale of dirty money as almost beyond imagination. In TI-UK’s 2019 analysis of over 400 corruption cases spanning 116 countries, amounting to economic damage in excess of £324 billion, they identified 582 firms and individuals offering services in the UK, often unwittingly, to corrupt individuals.[29] It would be naïve to think that only Russians might be benefiting from these systems or utilising them as a means of influence on the UK political system. The UK Government would be wise to launch a wide reaching review not only on the systems that facilitate the flow of dirty money through our borders, but also on the impact it has on UK politics and wider society.


Shutting down reporting of financial crime and corruption

More importantly for the protection and promotion of freedom of expression globally, it would be beneficial for the Government and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to examine how the UK’s facilitation of the illegal enrichment of political elites might affect media freedom in their home countries. It is not unsurprising that countries with higher rates of corruption, as measured by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), also tend to have the fewest protections for journalists and the media.[30] Journalists working in authoritarian countries, like Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan (which in 2019 rated 126/198 in the CPI Index and 160/180 in Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index), face a wide range of threats aimed at harassing and suppressing them.[31]


A recent example is the crackdown on journalists in Kyrgyzstan (which also rated 126/198 in TI’s CPI and 83/180 in RSF’s Press Freedom Index last year).[32] In November 2019, a joint investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Azattyk, OCCRP, and Kloop exposed significant corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s customs service, including the transfer of more than $700 million out of the country.[33] The money was being sent “to Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Dubai — countries where … large real estate investments [were being made].”[34] Almost immediately legal action was launched domestically by those named in the report, which led to the Kyrgyz courts to seemingly fast-track the freezing of the media organisations’ assets, a decision which was later reversed in response to international outcry.[35] Staring even prior to the release of the investigation many of the journalists involved have experiencing harassment, including threats, police investigations, arrest, physical attacks and online trolling.[36] In April 2020, a former Kyrgyz customs official stated that he was told to bring Ali Toktakunov, the journalist who led the joint investigative team, and now based in Prague, back to Kyrgyzstan “dead or alive.”[37]


In an essay for this publication, Dmitry Velikovsky, a Russian investigative journalist who worked on the Panama Papers and now part of a new Russian outlet iStories, writes powerfully about the state of media freedom in Russia (which ranked 137/190 in TI’s CPI and 149/180 in RSF’s Press Freedom Index).[38] Similarly, Alina Radu, Editor in Chief of Ziarul de Garda, an investigative newspaper in Moldova (120/198 in TI’s CPI and 91/180 in RSF’s Press Freedom Index), touches upon the challenges she and her colleagues experience while investigating corruption, including the 2014 banking scandal, which saw one billion USD stolen from the country with the involvement of at least 48 UK companies.[39]


Threats and harassment against journalists, regardless of type, generally need to be funded. Perhaps with the exception of uncoordinated social media trolling or individual retribution, the instigator typically needs to hire or bribe an intermediary(ies) to carry out the threats, legal or otherwise. Corrupt figures able to get away with financial crime are presumably well-resourced to fund these attempts to stop journalists from publishing information about their wrongdoing and to contribute to a broader suppression of information of public importance.[40]


Western journalists are not immune to underhand and nefarious tactics to pressure them to stop reporting. In the course of his five-year investigation into Wirecard, a German financial technology firm, the Financial Times journalist Dan McCrum was subject to “furious online abuse, hacking, electronic eavesdropping, physical surveillance and some of London’s most expensive lawyers.”[41] Writing about his experience, in September 2020, McCrum noted that “Observers of the Wirecard affair have tended to criticise the German establishment for the fact that this fraud ran for 20 years unchecked — poor auditing, zero regulatory oversight. And yet almost all the external professionals hired by the company to protect its reputation were based in London.”[42] The result of McCrum’s tenacity in continuing to report despite such harassment, was that he brought to light what has since been described as the “biggest accounting fraud case since the Enron scandal in 2011” and Wirecard’s ultimate demise.[43]


McCrum’s experience is not singular. Clare Rewcastle Brown in her contribution to this publication describes the surveillance, smear campaigns and digital hacking, on top of the significant legal challenges, she experienced while investigating Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal. Rewcastle Brown notes how law firms operate in combination with a network of public relations consultants, corporate investigators and private protection agencies. Her reporting led to the downfall of the former Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, who is now in prison, with the believed masterminded behind the scandal, businessman Jho Low, currently on the run from justice in Malaysia, Singapore and the US.[44]


Nor are these tactics used strictly on journalists, Global Witness – an international NGO headquartered in London, which aims to end the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system, has also been subject to a variety of threats and harassment.[45] In the summer of 2020, they published an investigation into how a controversial mining magnate seemingly used an alleged international money laundering network stretching from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Europe and Israel to avoid the US sanctions he has been subject to since 2017.[46] In a separate article, Global Witness documented the attempts to intimidate them and their partners, the Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), into dropping their investigation, before and after publication, including a sustained smear campaign on social media and a letter from a London based law firm, Carter Ruck, threatening legal action.[47] Despite their involvement, three defamation complaints have since been filed against Global Witness and PPLAAF in France.[48]


Reputation Laundering

Reputation laundering can be seen to come in two forms; smearing or undermining the standing of those who seek to publish information about wrongdoing, as described above, or as part of a positive PR campaign to cover up or whitewash over negative events. In the wake of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, a Guardian investigation found that “London has become a hub for global Saudi public relations and media influence campaigns, with British firms earning millions of pounds from efforts to improve the image of the kingdom and its regional allies in recent years.”[49] Two years on, the Saudi government is still ‘aggressively’ bankrolling high-profile events featuring major international artists, celebrities, and sports figures while those behind the journalist’s murder have still not been brought to justice.[50] The accused are currently being tried in Istanbul in absentia.[51] Ahead of the G20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia in November 2020, the UN special rapporteur who investigated Khashoggi’s murder, Agnès Callamard, called on G20 countries to take a moral stand – “The truth is that no country should be able to buy its way out of accountability.”[52]


In a notable step towards creating some level of accountability, the UK launched ‘Magnitsky style’ sanctions in July 2020.[53] This could be an important tool both in sanctioning corrupt individuals but also those involved in crimes against journalists. Among those to be targeted by these new sanctions were 20 Saudi nationals involved in the murder of Khashoggi. However, as Jessica Ní Mhainín of Index on Censorship points out in her essay reviewing the UK’s record on media freedom in this publication, such progress was later undermined by reports that the UK’s Defence Secretary had later apologised for the sanctions to his Saudi counterpart. If true, this action places a question mark over the integrity of potential future sanctions, albeit the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country plagued with human rights abuses, has long cast a damaging shadow over the UK’s reputation.[54]


Reputational Risks to the UK

The UK and its offshore jurisdictions are not the only locations used for the facilitation of financial crime and corruption. However, the extent to which the UK is a facilitator of financial crime, a destination for illicit money and the source of a wide range of enablers to support corrupt individuals is alarming. The most recent FinCEN Files investigation, released in September 2020, while ostensibly a review of suspicious activity reports (SARs) leaked from the records of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), an arm of the US Treasury, actually served once again to highlight the UK’s role as an international hub for money laundering. British companies were named more than 3,000 times in the leak, more than any other country – and it brought to light that the US Treasury refers to the UK as a ‘higher risk jurisdiction’.[55]


In August 2020, the BBC podcast series ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’, which investigates the disappearance of Ruja Ignatova the Bulgarian founder of Onecoin, a cryptocurrency scam, pointed to the use of legal threats against the UK’s own regulatory institutions.[56] In 2016, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) put a warning notice about Onecoin on its website, but this was taken down the following year after the FCA was challenged on the legal basis for the warning.[57] The investigative journalists behind the podcast, Jamie Bartlett and Georgia Catt, alleged that the notice was removed because of pressure from solicitors acting on Ignatova’s behalf. According to retired libel lawyer David Hooper, interviewed as part of the podcast, it should have been obvious to the regulator that OneCoin’s promoters were going to use this “as a marketing opportunity”.[58] Sales of OneCoin in the UK rose after the warning was removed, according to victim support groups.[59] About two billion pounds from across the world was spent on OneCoin tokens, including tens of millions of pounds from British families, in what turned out to be a pyramid scheme.[60] This situation should be a matter of embarrassment for the UK and call into question the efficacy of institutions such as the FCA.


Another contributor to this publication Peter Sabo, a Slovak journalist who received a bullet in his letterbox this summer, took on his role at investigative news outlet after the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his finance Martina Kusnirova in 2017. Sabo together with Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcová, who previously worked with Kuciak, write about the ease with which money flows out of countries like theirs via shell companies in UK jurisdictions, particularly offshore. In contrast, they highlight not only the difficulties they face as journalists getting information back from the UK, but also those experienced by authorities in their countries seeking to follow up on investigations of corrupt figures domestically. The UK should be seen to be supporting such initiatives not hindering them.


As the UK sets out to reposition itself post-Brexit as a ‘Global Britain’, its reputation is more important than ever. Many of the money laundering schemes have relied on utilising the UK’s hitherto positive reputation and standing. However, it is clear that this reputation is being undermined and eroded at a critical time for establishing future financial and trade relationships. In October 2020, the UK signed its first post-Brexit agreement with Ukraine. This ‘Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement’ is geared towards strengthening UK cooperation “in political, security and foreign matters with Ukraine, while also securing continued preferential trade for businesses and consumers.”[61] One wonders how this sits with the fact that more than 700 UK companies have been blacklisted in Ukraine for suspicious activity, with the term ‘Scottish Companies’ reported to have become synonymous for ‘shady’ amongst Ukrainians.[62]


If the UK is serious about realising its stated aims, both in terms of combatting corruption and promoting media freedom globally, it needs to re-assess how they match up with reality. Investigative journalists from around the world have repeatedly demonstrated their critical role in uncovering financial crime and corruption, the first step in ensuring accountability and redress. Yet if that role is threatened, if journalists themselves are prevented from continuing to bring matters of important public interest to light it only increases the scope for financial crime and corruption to continue unchecked.


Another element of concern in this regard is the UK’s continued effort, as part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, to break end-to-end encryption, a resource that is particularly valuable for journalists not only in their investigations, but to keep them and their sources safe.[63] It would be preferable to see the UK focus its energy and resources into breaking the cycle of illicit money flows and those services that support them in the UK and its overseas territories. This would go a long way to not only countering financial crime, but also other crimes related to it. Additionally, it would improve the situation for those journalists who report on corruption and those experiencing repressive media environments in highly corrupt countries. After all, prevention is better than cure.


As OCCRP’s investigation into the Azerbaijani Laundromat, which sparked the legal case against Radu, noted, the money laundered through the UK was used, amongst other things, to buy the ‘silence’ of several European politicians.[64] Silence about the human rights abuses that were, and are continuing to happen, in Azerbaijan. The UK should not, and must not, allow itself to be complicit in creating opportunities for such silence. Instead, it should seek to utilise the opportunity of a new ‘Global Britain’ platform not only speak out, but underpin it’s stated aims with concrete action that can set a positive example for the world to follow.


Image under (CC).


[1] Jonathan Price, Jennifer Robinson & Claire Overman, Azerbaijan MP discontinues defamation case against investigative journalist Paul Radi, Doughty Street Chambers, January 2020,

[2] Azerbaijani Laundromat – Agreed Statement, OCCRP, January 2020,

[3] Paul Radu, How to Successfully Defend Yourself in Her Majesty’s Libel Courts, GIJN, February 2020,

[4] While defamation laws were reformed in England and Wales in 2013, the same is not true of the laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland is currently going through a reform process, with the introduction of The Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 2 December 2019, which is still under review (see Northern Ireland has not updated its libel laws since 1955, but there has been an increased effort by civil society to call for reform in recent months (see

[5] HM Treasury, John Glen MP and The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, UK takes top spot in fight against dirty money,, December 2018,; FCO and FCDO, Policy Paper: Global pledge on media freedom,, July 2019,

[6] The Azerbaijani Laundromat, OCCRP, September 2017,

[7] The Azerbaijani Laundromat, OCCRP, September 2017,

[8] Azerbaijan: Transparency Group Delays Reinstatement, ARTICLE 19, June 2017,

[9] Azerbaijan: ECHR ruling confirms government failing to protect journalists from abuse, ARTICLE 19, January 2019,

[10] Amal Clooney and Nani Jansen Reventlow, European Court of Human Rights rules in favour of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, Doughty Street Chambers, February 2020,

[11] RFE/RL, Azerbaijan Urged To Lift Journalist’s ‘Unjust’ Travel Ban, Azerbaijan, RFE/RL, January 2020,; To note, two other ECtHR judgements – handed down in 2019 and 2020 – have been found in Ismayilova’s favour in connection to a 2012 a smear campaign, which involved state sponsored newspapers publishing a sex tape taken by hidden cameras in her flat and the authorities failure to investigate, violating her rights to privacy and freedom of expression (See: European Court’s third ruling in favour of journalist Khadija Ismayilova is ultimate indictment of Azerbaijani authorities, Amnesty International, May 2020,

[12] Paul Radu, How to Successfully Defend Yourself in Her Majesty’s Libel Courts, GIJN, February 2020,

[13] Unsafe for Scrutiny, FPC, November 2020,

[14] Unsafe for Scrutiny, FPC, November 2020,

[15] Jonathan Ames, Law firm ‘hounded’ Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia before murder, The Times, June 2018,; Jonathan Ames, Law firm ‘ hounded’ Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia before murder, The Times, June 2018,

[16] David Carnes, Libel Law: past, present and future, All About Law, December 2019,

[17] Juliette Garside, English law ‘abused by the powerful to threaten foreign journalists’, The Guardian, November 2020,

[18] English libel law for journalist: A brief Guide, Balkan Fellowship of Journalist Excellence,

[19] David Carnes, Libel Law: past, present and future, All About Law, December 2019,

[20] In England and Wales, the winning party in civil litigation is entitled to recover costs from the losing party. However, there is sometimes a discrepancy between the actual costs of litigation, which are the costs that each party pays to its own lawyers for running the case, and the recoverable costs, which the winning party recovers from the losing party by order of the court or by agreement.

[21] Offering a ‘right to reply’ ahead of publication is a common practice exercised in British journalism (compared to for example the United States, where it is not usually exercised). It is for example a ‘fairness obligation’ to those who are the subject of significant criticism or allegations of wrongdoing under the UK media regulator Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, see – Offering a ‘right to reply’ is widely seen as part of a principled approach to journalism, and considered useful as part of a ‘public interest’ defence against a defamation claim. However, since reform in 2013 of the defamation act it is not necessarily as strong a factor in building a defence as before, see

[22] Paul Radu, How to Successfully Defend Yourself in Her Majesty’s Libel Courts, GIJN, February 2020,

[23] British citizenship by investment, Imperial & Legal,

[24] Jane Croft, UK libel claimants must prove ‘serious harm’ to reputation, says court, Financial Times, June 2019,; Judgement – Lachaux (Respondent) v Independent Print Ltd and another (Appellants), United Kingdom Supreme Court, June 2019,

[25] Paul Radu, OCCRP,

[26] Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Press Notice,

[27] Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Press Notice,

[28] Luke Harding, Legal action taken against PM over refusal to investigate Kremlin meddling, The Guardian, October 2020,

[29] Transparency International UK, At Your Service: Investigating how UK businesses and institutions help corrupt individuals and regimes launder their money and reputations, October 2019

[30] Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International,; The high costs journalists pay when reporting on corruption, Transparency International, May 2020,

[31] Azerbaijan, World Map, Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International, 2019,; Ranking 2019, 2019 World Press Freedom Index, RSF,

[32] Ranking 2019, 2019 World Press Freedom Index, RSF,; Kyrgyzstan, World Map, Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International, 2019,

[33] Plunder and patronage in the heart of Central Asia, OCCRP, November 2019,

[34] RFE/RL, OCCRP, and Kloop, A Real Estate Empire Build on Dark Money, OCCRP, December 2019,

[35] Catherine Putz, After Exposing Corruption, Media Under Pressure in Kyrgyzstan, The Diplomat, December 2019, ;

[36] RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service investigative reporter receives death threat, U.S. Agency for Global Media, April 2020,

[37] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva, Kyrgyzstan: Former Matraimov protégé alleges plot against journalist, Eurasianet, April 2020,

[38] Ranking 2019, 2019 World Press Freedom Index, RSF,; Russia, World Map, Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International,

[39] Moldova, World Map, Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International, 2019,; Tim Whewell, The billion-dollar-ex-council flat, BBC News, October 2015,

[40] Unsafe for Scrutiny, FPC, November 2020,

[41] Dan McCrum, Wirecard and me: Dan McCrum on exposing a criminal enterprise, Financial Times, September 2020,

[42] Dan McCrum, Wirecard and me: Dan McCrum on exposing a criminal enterprise, Financial Times, September 2020,

[43] Janet W. Lee, WME Signs Wirecard Scandal Journalists Dan McCrum, Paul Murphy, Variety, August 2020,

[44] Mary Jolley, How 1MBD fugitive Jho Low tried to bargain for his freedom, Al Jazeera, November 2020,

[45] Global Witness – About us,

[46] Undermining Sanctions, Global Witness, October 2020,

[47] Intimidation and scare tactics won’t work on us – we will continue to demand real action to bring greater transparency to DRC’s mining sector, Global Witness, July 2020,

[48] France: Reprisals against PPLAAF and Global Witness intensify with new SLAPP procedures, Whistleblowing International Network, November 2020,

[49] Jim Waterson, Saudi Arabia pays UK firm millions to boost image, The Guardian, October 2018,

[50] Saudi Arabia: ‘Image Laundering’ Conceals Abuses, Human Rights Watch, October 2020,

[51] Jamal Khashoggi murder: Trial of 20 Saudis in absentia resumes in Turkey, BBC News, November 2020,;

[52] Caroline Hawley, G20: Saudi Arabia’s human rights problems that won’t go away, BBC News, November 2020,

[53] UK imposes sanctions against human rights abusers, BBC News, July 2020,

[54] Armida L. M. van Rij, Britain’s relationship with Saudia Arabia does far more damage than it’s worth, The Conversation, September 2018,

[55] The Times view on Britain’s role in money laundering: Dirty Money, The Times, September 2020,

[56] Jamie Bartlett, Missing Cryptoqueen: Follow the money, BBC News, August 2020,

[57] The podcast alleges that the message was removed because of pressure from solicitors acting on Ignatova’s behalf.

[58] Jamie Bartlett, Missing Cryptoqueen: Why did the FCA drop its warning about the OneCoin scam?, BBC News, August 2020,

[59] Kenza Bryan, £2bn missing – but City regulators takes down warning about OneCoin, The Times, August 2020,

[60] Jamie Bartlett, Missing Cryptoqueen: Why did the FCA drop its warning about the OneCoin scam?, BBC News, August 2020,

[61] FCDO, Department for International Trade, UK Export Finance, The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, and The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, UK and Ukraine sign Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement,, October 2020,

[62] David Leask and Richard Smith, Revealed: More than 700 British firms blacklisted in Ukraine for suspicious activity, openDemocracy, May 2020,

[63] James Cook, Facebook defends unbreakable encryption despite pressure from governments, The Telegraph, October 2020,; Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs, International Statement: End-To-End Encryption and Public Safety, The Unites States Department of Justice, October 2020,

[64] The Azerbaijani Laundromat, OCCRP, September 2017,

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