The takeaway quotation has to be "We all get to choose our life stories. It’s our choices that define us, not our gifts. You can only be proud of your choices” Says Bezos. "You either choose a life of ease-and-comfort, or of service-and-adventure, and when you’re 80, you’ll be more proud of the latter."
The e-discovery industry has been in a race to adopt ever more sophisticated e-discovery tools, with advanced analytics technology that can take words, phrases and concepts and make connections across them to a level we have not seen before. But end users never seem to come close to using its full capability.
My colleague Jonathan Maas thinks its because in civil matters clients are never going to use the true analytical functions of that software because they are dogged by proportionality. Only criminal and state investigations have the deep pockets required. Jonathan has a upcoming piece on this issue so I will let him elaborate. But he and I are both agreed: the use of this technology outside its normal “neighborhood” is coming to pass. And many e-discovery technology companies are seizing the day.
I note this because a team of Italian anti-mafia investigators are now in Malta to assist in the investigation of the murder of Daphne Capuana Galizia as police explore potential links to international organized crime. Sources involved in the investigation have told me that organized crime links between Malta, Italy and Libya, among other countries, were being considered among “the main avenues of investigation” into last week’s car bombing.
We know that Daphne was looking into this international network of illegal activity and the Malta government’s “blind eye” to it. Investigators are trawling through thousands of posts uploaded on her popular blog in a bid to get a better idea of likely suspects, likely motives. This includes sifting through the many more thousands of comments left by readers, many of which were written using aliases, providing background information. And they are using e-discovery software to do it.
In a subsequent post I am going to write in more detail how journalists and e-discovery vendors are collaborating and how these platforms are being modified to assist journalists with their analysis and to improve on their workflow efficiency. And in a further post, I will look at how some of these e-discovery techniques are being used in cyber security.
I received an enormous response from my first post and many of you have asked for more background on the “criminal and political cesspool” I described so herein some background – and my thanks to several reporters at the Italian newspapers “L’Espresso” and “La Repubblica” for their notes and articles, as well as my media team who has been doing extensive research. Anyone I do mention below was named in court filings that were made public.
This story is really one made up of dozens of stories concerning the Mafia that many journalists have uncovered … and died for. Some of these stories include secret lists of Italians who set up companies in the former British colony. Malta has become the new Panama, set in the heart of the Mediterranean. For the Italian and Libyan and Russian criminal syndicates it is a sort of “like being home” tax haven, where tons of money from rackets, extortion and drug trafficking can be laundered. There is no need to go through customs or board planes. It takes just two hours by boat from Pozzallo or Portopalo di Capo Passero to reach its coasts. A briefcase stashed with cash, or often even just a wire transfer, and money launderers are set: millions of dirty euros can be reinvested in the legal economy.
As I noted in my first post, the crime syndicates set up night clubs, restaurants, gaming companies. Once laundered, that money can even yield a profit … and at very low taxes, or sometimes no tax at all. And more than anything else, it is a secure system, because Malta is a member country of the European Union, the currency of which is the euro. And no one checks on you if you are arriving from Italy. There is no need for reinventing stratagems: all you need is a not too zealous local authority.
I will summarise just two stories. The first was a stroke of good luck, really. A case of fate that would allow investigators to track down one treasure trove of Gomorra, the Italian Mafia-type crime syndicate. But then … well, you read the story:
Nicola Schiavone, the son of a notorious Gomorra boss, dropped his wallet on a street. The Carabinieri del Ros, an Italian enforcement branch, collected it, and found tucked between the banknotes and a laundry receipt a business card featuring the name of Bruno Tucci. Tucci is an Italian entrepreneur with a base in Malta. The investigators tapped Schiavone’s phone lines, listening to his calls and taping them. They conclude that Tucci might be one of the entrepreneurs through whom one significant Mafia clan intends to launder its money stockpile. So a full report is dispatched to the Malta authorities. The Italian plan: to follow the money, and stop the laundering operations before it even begins. But, alas, the Malta authorities delay an answer, and when it finally gets back to the Italian investigators it is incomplete. Someone in Malta has closed more than one eye on the origin of the money.
Then there is Haru Pharma Limited. A name like so many in the endless Maltese Registry of Companies. Haru Pharma is the perfect showcase to hide an embarrassing past: that of its owners, a major crime family, specializing in cocaine trafficking with the South American cartels. Journalists tracked down the ownership. The family was once a star in the ill-famed “Anonima sequestri” (a journalistic term for a kidnapping ring), and later became drug traffickers with a net worth comparable to that of Mexican El Chapo Guzman’s cartel. The family comes originally from Sal Luca, a little village on the slopes of Aspromonte. This is where all Mafia bosses overseeing the European drug trafficking business reside.
As one journalist told me “they are a shrewd and quiet people with a strong sense for business. And they chose Malta to hide their wealth”. Haru Pharma is headquartered in Balzan, just a few miles away from the Malta capital, Valletta. Despite having been operating five years, the company never filed a balance sheet, so that made it impossible to get an idea of the assets and business operations of the company. Journalists did retrieve, however, other records. Its sole shareholder is Haru Pharma Holding Limited, incorporated in the Island of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean tax paradise, the government of which is the British monarchy. Saint Kitts and Nevis guarantee an “absolute secrecy” on the identity of the company’s partners. But a little journalistic fortitude revealed that the head of the Maltese entity was the link between the anonymous Maltese shell company and the ‘Ndrangheta.
The ‘Ndràngheta is an organized crime group centered in Calabria, Italy. Despite not being as famous abroad as the Sicilian Mafia, and having been considered more rural than the Neapolitan Camorra and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita, the ‘Ndrangheta became the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While commonly tied together with the Sicilian Mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta operates independently from them, though there is contact between the two, due to the geographical proximity and shared culture and language between Calabria and Sicily.
Journalists have poured over the Maltese Registry of Companies and determined many directors are linked to powerful criminal cartels. The nature of this business changes, but not where the money originates. From pharmacy products we go to online gambling. The latter is an industry on which the Malta government is betting heavily by supporting it with a generous tax regime (to understate it, quite frankly). A major investigation on money laundering through these gambling facilities revealed companies, cash and real estate in Malta worth €2 billion.
The most powerful Italian criminal clans have one goal: to invest Mafia funds in online poker and betting sites. The industry, the Maltese Minister for Competitiveness Emmanuel Mallia said, is worth €1.2 billion, or 12% of Maltese national GDP. These figures translate into a consistent business for many people on the island, the first in line being accountants and lawyers, normally very well-known professionals and firms. Some earn €50,000 a month in fees. Case in point: Italian investigators determined that the “mark” concealing the Mafia clan in one operation was a fiduciary trust company headed by David Gonzi, a lawyer … and the son of the former Maltese prime minister, Lawrence Gonzi.
The Gonzi case shows what Malta has become in recent years: a European country in which lawyers and accountants have been serving any sort of client, even Mafiosi.
And then software entered the picture. Investigators tell me the criminal syndicates brought in Israeli technology experts to pump up slot machine operations by developing a software platform to manage online poker gaming to boost the profits the Mafia reaps from the slot machines and online poker businesses … and then used the computer technicians as fronts for the real owners of the companies. So no Mafiosi show up in the Maltese Registry of Companies.
It also extends into the building sector as Mafia controlled companies in Malta win bid after bid … an estimated total of a half a billion euros. Fronted by important Maltese law firms. In other words, a valued professional on a Mafia boss’ payroll. A repeat of the relationship I described above with the former Prime Minister’s son.
And through all these investigations a common tool for journalists: sophisticated e-discovery software, with advanced analytics technology that can take words, phrases and concepts and make connections.
Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday afternoon when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful Semtex-driven explosive device which blew the vehicle and her body into several pieces and threw the debris across a nearby field.
My wife is Maltese and she was a close family friend. I have known her work for years.
Daphne was a fearless reporter, taking on the rich and the powerful. She was very well known among journalists (the Guardian had once called her a "one-woman WikiLeaks". She led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta. Her most recent revelations pointed the finger at Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and hundreds of thousands of euros in payments from the government of Azerbaijan, plus many other nefarious deeds such as sweetheart real estate deals for the Russian oligarchs who have decamped to Malta - opening their own banks. And yet, despite a judicial inquiry into all of these allegations, Muscat won a snap election this past summer.
She had a blog that attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country's 4 newspapers. She was a thorn in the side of both the establishment and the underworld figures that hold sway in Malta, Europe's smallest member state.
NOTE: many of my readers know Malta and/or have visited, knowing it only as "a charming popular holiday destination". Park that. Malta is witnessing an unconscionable level of corruption and malfeasance by a government whose actions are causing irreparable economic and social harm. Much like Herr Trump in America. But the execution of Daphne Caruana Galizia ... it was an execution ... I lay this at the feet of the Prime Minister and his corruption and the ambient violence that trails his entourage. As one writer in the Times of Malta put it "this was a clinical act of elimination which required logistics and money". As an attorney, I have spent enough time on the dark side to know the hallmarks of organized crime which more often than not operates on different planes.
She was the 10th journalist worldwide to be murdered this year - and the second in Europe - in pursuit of finding the truth. The assassination of an investigative journalist, one who had unearthed serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, speaks volumes about the threat to freedom of speech in that country and the atmosphere of impunity and violence that has taken hold.
What is striking about Daphne's reporting is how rotten the state of Malta appears. The EU's smallest country, with a population of around 420,000, Malta held the rotating European Union presidency until earlier this year. It has been labelled an EU "pirate tax haven", helping multinationals avoid paying €14bn. But the darker side is the 15 mafia-style shootings and bombings that have punctuated its last decade. Its main industries have been infiltrated by crime gangs. Earlier this month Europol detailed how the Calabrian organised crime syndicate, the 'Ndrangheta, ran a €2bn money-laundering operation through Maltese online betting companies. Internet gambling companies account for 10% of the island's GDP.
But Malta's big money-spinner has been selling EU passports to the rich. More than 900 bought citizenship in 2016, which at €650,000 a pop means that they contributed nearly 16% of Malta's budget revenues. Since many were taken up by Eurasian oligarchs, one can understand the accusation that Daphne was up against not a democracy but a mafia state.
Her son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, is a journalist and programmer who works for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). As most of you know it was Nuix that supplied the document processing and investigation technology that was essential to the Panama Papers investigation which was conducted by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and (ICIJ). Both he and his mother were intimate with the use of the Nuix technology.
BACKGROUND: Süddeutsche Zeitung received an anonymous leak of approximately 11.5 million documents, totaling 2.6 terabytes of data, detailing the activities of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which helped clients set up anonymous offshore companies. While these offshore entities are generally legal in the jurisdictions in which they are registered, the investigation revealed that some were allegedly used for unlawful purposes including sovereign and individual fraud, drug trafficking, and tax evasion. Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ turned to Nuix software to process, index, and analyze the data. More than 400 journalists in 80 countries around the world then investigated the data before publishing the first set of results on April 4, 2016.
Over the last three years I have turned my attention more to "data journalism" and the ways e-discovery software can help. Plus an in-depth study of the Russian social media monster. Last month I was in Kiev, Ukraine for several days being briefed on the mathematical models Russian agents used to spread their false news on social media networks, and details on the true extent of the "computational propaganda" at work. We even had the opportunity to see the Russian training manuals for corrupting social media. I am having that material translated into English, all part of a series of subsequent posts.
Data journalism is reinventing itself, and adapting for a world which is rapidly changing again. Where networked communications and processing power were key in the 2000s, automation and AI are becoming key in the decade to come. And just as data journalism raised the bar for journalism as a whole, the bar is about to be raised for data journalism itself. Now into its second decade, the technologies that it was built on (networked access to information and vastly improving visualisation capabilities) are now taken for granted, just as the "computer assisted" part of its antecedent "Computer Assisted Reporting" was.
NOTE: I first heard the term CAR not as "computer assisted review" but as Computer A ssisted Reporting, a phrase that originated in the late 1960s.
CAR saw journalists using spreadsheet and database software to analyse datasets, but it also had important political and cultural dimensions too: firstly, the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act in the U.S. which made it possible to access more data than before; and secondly, the spread of social science methods into politics and journalism.
Data journalism, like CAR, had technological, political and cultural dimensions too. Where CAR had spreadsheets and databases, data journalism had APIs and datavis tools; where CAR had Freedom of Information, data journalism had a global open data movement; and where CAR acted as a trojan horse that brough social science methods into the newsroom, data journalism has brought "hacker" culture into publishing.
But much of the credit for the birth of data journalism lies outside of the news industry: often overlooked in histories of the form is the work of civic coders and information activists (in particular MySociety which was opening up political data and working with news organisations well before the term data journalism was coined), and technology companies (the APIs and tools of Yahoo! for example formed the basis of much of data journalism's early experiments).
And, of course ... e-discovery software. Its use to support investigative reporting is now common because it allows journalists the ability to analyze large data sets quickly and accurately. More and more reporters are trawling documents - whether emails, text messages, or files - to uncover the stories within. This is much the same process attorneys go through while building a case. Finding key documents and weaving them into a story is what sophisticated e-discovery was designed for.
And while ediscovery software isn't new, until recently it's been hard to use except for those with specialized training. Plus, users often needed to ship the data to a third party for uploading - a non-starter for reporters on tight deadlines. Not to mention the technology was slow and at times inaccurate - hardly what you need when you're not sure what you're looking for. But that has changed. There are many e-discovery vendors to choose from, although Nuix would be my first choice. Plus you really need to learn Python to slice through databases.
So where do we look for data journalism's next wave of change? We need to look - again - outside news organisations to see changes in two areas in particular: on the technical side, an increasing use of automation, from algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to bots. On the political side, a retreat from open data and transparency while governmental organizations take on an increasingly role in policing citizens' behavior and information.
And that, in a way, what Daphne was all about. Getting the truth out. I have been too much of a cynic. Daphne felt she could really change things. Her last blog was characteristically trenchant, pithy and, unfortunately, more prescient for her than she could imagine. She had warned: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate." Less than half an hour later, a huge bomb ripped her to shreds.
The charge is that Malta is turning into a state run by, and resembling, organized crime - which does not govern but disposes of positions, wealth and troublesome persons. Malta cannot be a sham EU state where elections, the rule of law and the courts are just for show. The continent's citizens accept EU governance because every member state is a functioning democracy. When one of its own backslides on democratic commitments, when a life is lost in the pursuit of truth, then the EU must take action.
So I must join the call.
Welcome to Gonzo News
This is the "serious" part of the site where we provide news and comment on tech matters, aspects of cyberspace, including hacking and socialmedia, as well as geek stuff.
The Gonzo News section is curated by Charles Christian, a former barrister and Reuters correspondent. In 1994 he was also winner of the National Newspapers Technology Journalist of the Year Award. His 1998 book Legal Practice in the Digital Age was described as “essential reading for every lawyer in the land.” In 2017 he was named as one of the UK’s Top 100 Business Influencers “whose commentary and social influence helps drive ideas and change within the small business sector".
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