ICIJ, Frontline, NY Times consortium win top Barlett & Steele award

An investigative team of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Frontline, Expresso, the New York Times and 33 other media partners won the top prize in the 14th annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Journalism for uncovering a massive corrupt global empire operating in dozens of countries.

The Center for Public Integrity and the Los Angeles Times won the silver award and MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, in partnership with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, won the bronze award in the annual Reynolds Center competition, which celebrates the best in investigative journalism.

The awards are named for the renowned investigative team of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, whose honors include two Pulitzer prizes and scores of national journalism awards. The contest is sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

In the “Luanda Leaks” series, ICIJ and investigative teams from around the world exposed a global business empire fueled by millions of dollars in public funds. Drawing on leaked records, the investigation centered on Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s wealthiest woman, who built a reputation on the false claim that she made her fortune through business acumen, grit and entrepreneurial spirit.

The investigation was sparked by a leak of more than 715,000 documents and involved hundreds of interviews with sources in Angola. The journalists uncovered numerous examples of public money paid to offshore firms controlled by, or connected to, dos Santos. The investigation identified more than 400 companies and subsidiaries in 41 countries linked to dos Santos or her husband, including 94 in secrecy jurisdictions such as Malta and Mauritius.

“Pulling from thousands of pages of leaked documents, public records and in-depth interviews, the ICIJ and its partners wove a powerful narrative about international corruption on a massive scale,” said the judges. “The reporters built tools to mine data in innovative ways and released their searchable database to make their work even more transparent.”

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