UK journalist Margot Gibbs gave journalists a breakdown of how she exposed corrupt politicians and people linked to organised crime following the Dubai Leaks expose in June 2018.

A UK-based journalist has recounted how she used social media, court records and collaborations with other newsrooms to expose corrupt politicians during the Dubai Leaks scandal which implicated a number of prominent individuals for tax evasion and money laundering. Margot Gibbs, a reporter for Finance Uncovered, was speaking at the African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC) at Wits University on Tuesday, October 30.

The Dubai Leaks were a collection of property and residency records identifying property owners in the luxury Emirati city.  Gibbs told the audience that when the leaked documents were first published, she looked for individuals who were politically connected or connected to organised crime.

Finance Uncovered collaborated with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to expose UK Labour politician Kevan Jonas, Nigerian petroleum minister Dan Etete and the estate of the late Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Gibbs investigated the story by cross referencing names onto several databases such as PACER which is a database of US court records, conducting smart Google searches and matching the information she obtained about people on the leaks documents from anonymous sources with their social media accounts.

“This story shows the importance of going beyond the data in a leak investigation,” Gibbs said.

Throughout her presentation, she explained what steps journalists should take when investigating stories dealing with illicit finance and importance of conducting thorough background research.

“When you are looking at kleptocrats … you want to say your official salary is 20 grand and you bought a property for 1 million,” she explained.

“It’s not interesting to say a rich man bought property. We have to contextualise it and make it seem important enough so that the reader can understand it,” Gibbs said.

FEATURED PHOTO: UK-based journalist Margot Robbie gives an audience a breakdown of the process she used to investigate the Dubai Leaks.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi