A Twitter account called GVA Dictator Alert tracks planes registered to or used by despots when they fly into and out of Geneva, Switzerland.
Planes being tracked — about 80 of them so far — are registered to governments or known to be used by royal families or leaders.
The tracked planes come from Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan.
Those countries have “authoritarian regimes,” according to the Democracy Index (2015) compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
A Swiss freelance investigative journalist, François Pilet, had the idea for the bot.
His cousin, a former Google engineer, developed a program to scan antenna signals around Geneva and automatically tweet when it picks up the transponder of a tracked plane.
Pilet told the Verge he did it to add some transparency.
He said passengers in tracked planes could have legitimate reasons for being in Geneva and aren’t necessarily there to hide money.
More than 20 international organizations are headquartered in Geneva, according to the Geneva Graduate School of Governance. They include the International Labor Organization, some big UN agencies, the World Economic Forum, the World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization.
And about 250 NGOs are based in Geneva.
But Pilet told the Verge: “I think every time that we see a plane from, say Equatorial Guinea, we should think about it. Why is the guy coming here?”
GVA Dictator Alert has posted about 75 tweets.
A tweet Wednesday said:
A dictator’s plane landed at #gva airport: Boeing 737 used by Kazakhstan government (P4-KAZ) on 2016/10/12 at 16:07:19
One Thursday said:
A dictator’s plane left #gva airport: Boeing 737 used by Kazakhstan government (P4-KAZ) on 2016/10/13 at 11:59:54
Pilet told the Verge he wants to expand the project to other European airports and to yachts.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.