A series of exceptional reports on illegal payments, made by two European companies to former Central American presidents, has won the Best Investigative Journalism Report on Corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean which is awarded annually by Transparency International in Latin America and the Caribbean (TILAC) and the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS). The prize, an award of $25,000 was presented yesterday in Mexico. TILAC is a regional network of TI, the leading non-governmental organisation devoted to the fight against corruption worldwide. IPYS is a Latin American society of independent journalists.
The winners are Giannina Segnini, Ernesto Rivera, and Mauricio Herrera, from the Costa Rican daily La Nación. The winners were chosen by a jury composed of Marcelo Beraba, Ombudsman of Folha de S. Paulo (Brazil); Gustavo Gorriti, co-director of the daily La República (Peru); Michael Reid, Latin American editor of The Economist (Great Britain); Gerardo Reyes, journalist at El Nuevo Herald (United States); and Tina Rosenberg, editorial page editor for The New York Times (United States).
The La Nación journalists unveiled how the Finnish company Instrumentarium Medko Medical and the French corporation Alcatel-CIT, made illegal payments to three former presidents: the former OAS Secretary-General Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, the former President Rafael Ángel Calderón, and the former Executive Director of the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum José María Figueres.
“The majority of this year’s contributions, and particularly the outstanding investigations conducted by the La Nación team, show that corruption in Latin America is a phenomenon that transcends borders and often involves companies from industrialised countries which violate the international anti-bribery framework when they offer bribes to foreign officials and, in doing so, undermine the fight against corruption in Latin America,” said Silke Pfeiffer, Transparency International Regional Director of the Americas.
Two Brazilian investigative reports received special recognition on behalf of the jury, in the form of a $5,000-prize. “Os homens de bens da Alerj”, the first report, researched the unjustified increase in assets among 27 congressmen in Rio de Janeiro, was investigated by Angelina Nunes, Alan Gripp, Carla Rocha, Dimmi Amora, Flavio Pessoa, Luiz Ernesto Magalhães, and Maiá Menezes, from the daily O Globo. “Bolsa Família”, the second investigation, by Eduardo Faustini of TV Globo, revealed irregularities in the handling of funds allocated for the Brazilian Government’s main social program.
“We have experienced a rebirth in investigative journalism in Latin America,” said Gustavo Gorriti, president of IPYS. “This year’s contributions stand out due to their high caliber and the ever-increasing ability of investigative reporters to cover very complex corrupt activities.” He added that the prize is an excellent way to provide a platform for investigative journalism in Latin America, which makes impunity all the more difficult.”
The jury also gave special recognition to the investigative merits of ten other pieces, among which figure:
“Jefes y Jefas de Exportación,” by the production team of Telenoche Investiga, Canal 13, which showed the use of social programs as a means of extortion and buying votes in Argentine provinces.
“Caso Waldomiro,” by Andrei Meireles, Gustavo Krieger, and Diego Escosteguy of the magazine Época, which unveiled illegal payments made by businessman Carlos Cachoeira to Waldomiro Diniz, president of the state-owned company in charge of the Rio de Janeiro lottery and political operator for the governing Worker’s Party.
“Los señores de las tierras,” by Maria Teresa Ronderos, Carlos Eduardo Huertas, and César Molinares of the magazine Semana, which revealed the appropriation of estates and other properties by paramilitaries.
“Corrupción alcanza a tres expresidentes,” investigated by Liliana Carranza, Pilar Cisneros Gallo, and Ignacio Santos Pasamontes of Telenoticias, Canal 7, which addressed the illegal payments made by European companies Alcatel and Instrumentarium to former Costa Rican presidents.
“Anomalías en licitaciones de COSSAL,” Rafael García of the daily La Prensa Gráfica, which revealed irregular contracts tied to the organizers of the XIX Central American and Caribbean Games.
“Millones de quetzales de impuestos desviados a campañas electorales,” presented by Jennyffer Paredes of the daily Prensa Libre, which demonstrated that the electoral campaigns of two political parties were financed with state funds.
“Así lavó millones la banda de Portillo,” written by Coralia Orantes and Carlos Menocal of the daily Siglo XXI, which uncovered the money-laundering practices of high-level officials linked to former president Alfonso Portillo via operations with Banco Crédito Hipotecario Nacional.
“Caso Sasayama,” presented by Omar Millán of the daily Frontera, which showed how the Baja California State Attorney General’s Office, in an attempt to produce immediate results, falsely convicted a citizen of murder.
“El caso Zevallos o la tentación del narcoestado,” by Fernando Ampuero and Miguel Ramírez of the daily El Comercio, which proved airline businessman Fernando Zevallos’ ties to drug trafficking.
“Caso Bavaria,” by Fernando Ampuero and Pablo O´Brien of the daily El Comercio, which revealed the payment of bribes on the part of Colombian beer company Bavaria to President Alejandro Toledo’s top aide.
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