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Anti-graft journalists name Putin the 2014 Person of the Year

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has named Russia president Vladimir Putin the 2014 Person of the Year. The award is given annually to the person who does the most to enable and promote organized criminal activity, the OCCRP said.

“Putin was recognized for his work in turning Russia into a major money-laundering center; for enabling organized crime in Crimea and in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine; for his unblemished record of failing to prosecute criminal activity; and for advancing a government policy of working with and using crime groups as a component of state policy,” the group said.

The OCCRP supports journalists and media organizations that expose how organized crime and corruption affect people’s lives. Its members are not-for-profit regional investigative centers and for-profit independent media partners. It operates in Europe, Central Asia, and Latin America.

Drew Sullivan, editor of the OCCRP, said, “Putin has been a finalist every year so you might consider this a lifetime achievement award.”

“He has been a real innovator in working with organized crime,” Sullivan said. “He has created a military-industrial-political-criminal complex that furthers Russia’s and Putin’s personal interests.”

More than 125 OCCRP-affiliated investigative reporters and 20 investigative reporting organizations chose Putin as the 2014 Person of the Year.

The OCCRP said it reported on a sophisticated money-laundering system involving Moldovan organized crime and Russian banks (including one connected to Vladimir Putin’s cousin Igor).

Another OCCRP project produced a documentary about links between the state-owned Russian Railways, a  banker who was shot in London, and mobsters in Russia and Muldova.

“Organized crime figures have served as intermediaries for weapons transfers between the Russian army and Russian-backed separatist rebels in Ukraine,” the OCCRP said.

“Putin’s government has forced the closure of media and civil society groups that have looked at its corrupt practices and ended the year in ironic fashion by finding its fiercest critic, blogger Alexey Navalny, guilty of corruption,” the OCCRP said.

Runners up to Putin this year were Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.

Previous winners include the Romanian parliament for its role in legalizing corruption and other crime in 2013. And Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, in 2012 for taking large cuts of state business.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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