Money Trail

Target group

Investigative journalists (and their research teams) in Asia, Europe and Africa


Investigative journalists and activists

Other stakeholders

Local co-organizing partners: PPMN, PTCIJ

Country Partners Budget Duration
Asia, Europe, Africa Oxfam Novib, Finance Uncovered, 2018-2021
Theory of Change Themes Donor
Intermediate Outcome 2, Intermediate Outcome 3 Accountability, Fact checking, Safety of journalists Nationale Postcode Loterij


Developing countries are especially hard-hit by financial crime. Tax evasion, corruption and abuse of government funds contribute directly to economic inequality and hamper growth in these developing countries. For instance, the African Union estimates that a quarter of African states’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost to corruption every year. Tax avoidance schemes keep funds that can be used for development programmes out of state coffers: one recent report by Finance Uncovered showed that Namibia had lost out on 219 million Namibian dollars (€13.4m) in taxes from the sale of shares in a uranium mine because an offshore holding company was used.

More attention needs to be brought to such practices by increasing the capacity of journalists to investigate and produce stories on money laundering, corruption and illicit financing. This is key to developing nations holding their governments and institutions to account, so that billions more aren’t lost to financial crime. When investigative journalism exposes such financial crimes, revenue authorities and enforcement agencies can recover desperately needed funds and politicians are forced to act.

Overall objective

The collective aim of the project is to increase the capacity of journalists to produce stories on money laundering, corruption and illicit financing. Free Press Unlimited’s particular role was to train journalists and activists from Asia, Europe and Africa in digital security. The training aims for them to identify threats and risks and then to provide them with tools on how to keep their information and devices secure. This allows the journalists and activists to safely carry out their (online) investigative work.

Intended outcomes

Qualified independent journalists expose cases of tax abuse and grand corruption primarily focused on sub-Sahara Africa and (South East) Asia, and they can do so in a safe and secure way.



During 2018, Free Press Unlimited developed a curriculum on digital security for the Money Trail project. Through a game-based case-study and interactive exercises, the training reproduces real-life circumstances. It guides the participant through how to do an independent risk assessment, implement sound security measures and choose the security tools that are best suited to mitigate their risks. It focuses primarily on awareness and understanding how the digital world might affect one’s security.
The curriculum was – after a pilot test in Indonesia – first run at the London training. 31 participants (world-wide) learned how to keep themselves, their sources, and their data and investigation safe.

During 2019, Free Press Unlimited updated the resource space and the curriculum on digital security that was developed for the Money Trail project in 2018.
The 2-day curriculum on digital security was implemented during the 5-day training course for investigative journalists. 91 participants from Europe, Asia and Africa (31 in Jakarta, 30 in Abuja and 30 in London) learned how to keep themselves, their sources, and their data and investigation safe. Free Press Unlimited also provided 1-on-1 digital security advice to participants after the training, and referred cases to the Reporters Respond and Legal Defense Fund when journalists were under threat.

During 2020, two training rounds (with 60 participants from Asia and Africa) were planned, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the training sessions were postponed and then cancelled. The team will work on to convert the 2-day classroom curriculum into online modules. The selected participants will be trained in 2021.

Achieved outputs

So far:

  • 1 digital safety curriculum has been developed that can and has been used by trainers
  • A series of 4 out of 6 training sessions given to journalists and activists
  • 121 journalists/activists have been trained in ethical/investigative journalism and safety/security (44% women)
  • Technical digital security support provided post-training via an online resource space, 1-on-1 advice, via the online community platform for Money Trail beneficiaries, and through distribution of VPN and Yubikeys
  • Due to the explosiveness of some of the stories, some grantees faced physical or legal threats; Free Press Unlimited supported these journalists through the Reporters Respond emergency fund and the Legal Defense Fund

Achieved outcomes

So far:

  • Trainees adopted new tools to better protect their privacy

Results in the overall Money Trail project, achieved in collaboration with our consortium partners Oxfam Novib, Finance Uncovered and

  • Grants were provided to cross-border/continental teams of journalists collaborating to investigate illicit financial flows
  • Stories were published that exposed cases of tax abuse and corruption
  • CSOs harnessed the evidence uncovered by journalists to demand policy change

Achieved impact

Power-holders were held accountable and – in a number of cases – effective measures were taken in combating tax abuse / corruption

Role of FPU

Free Press Unlimited trained investigative financial journalists and activists from Europe, Asia and Africa on digital security. Free Press Unlimited made trainees aware of the risks and provided them with the skills and tools needed to safely uncover illegal financial practices.

For the organisation of the training rounds, Free Press Unlimited (providing 2-day training on digital security) collaborated with Finance Uncovered whose experts provided 3-days training on uncovering illicit finance. This was done in collaboration with local partners PPMN and PTCIJ to co-host the events in Asia and Africa respectively.

Lessons learned / Challenges

  • Have a flexible, interactive approach in digital security curriculum to adapt to the diversity of the trainees (coming from different countries, other experiences and all with a different entry level of knowledge on digital security)
  • The participatory training approach and combining of a lead-trainer with a local trainer worked well to train a large group of 30 partipants
  • Work with a strong local partner eased the organisation and logistics (visa, flights)
  • Post-training advice on digital security and the equipment provision was appreciated
  • Covid-19 caused a delay in implementation of training activities and ultimately led to the decision to convert the face-to-face classroom training into online modules and sessions

More information

Free Press Unlimited Money Trail project description 

Money Trail website