My new (and first) novel

If you would like to know more about my new novel, Country Gumption, which is also unpublished and my first, please click here.

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FBME Cyprus: the global criminal’s bank of choice

S&P Global Market Intelligence, the financial newswire where I work as a reporter, recently published my investigative series into FBME, the now closed rogue Cypriot bank linked to the Russian mafia, Syrian war crimes, fraud, money laundering, corrupt offshore finance & other illegalities.  The newswire is usually available only to subscribers, but these stories are free to read.

Part one shows how, thanks to FBME’s brazen rulebreaking, Russian gangsters who robbed the state (in what became known as the Magnitsky case) channelled their dirty money into Syrian tyrant Bashar Al-Assad’s banned weapons program:

Part two exposes the variegated bunch of crooks and politically-connected businesspeople that took advantage of FBME’s dodgy services, as well as a number of moody schemes in which the bank’s owners were involved directly:

The third part looks into what exactly went wrong in the bank’s compliance department, allowing money laundering, fraud and sanctions evasion to take place for years… This one is for those who care about financial procedures known as AML (anti-money laundering) and KYC (know your customer):

S&P Global Market Intelligence is one of the only six publications that obtained the ream of confidential audits, internal reports and witness statements which revealed the extent of the wrongdoing at this bank. The others are Asia Sentinel, Cyprus Mail, Buzzfeed UK, CNN and The Daily Beast.

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The Wapping Mole discovers likely Romanian prostitution ring

The Wapping Mole, a lively blog running journalistic investigations and general interest news about the Wapping neighbourhood of Tower Hamlets, London, has discovered what appears to be a Romanian sex trafficking gang operating on the quaint cobblestoned streets it patrols.

The Mole duly ran an investigative series about it — complete with candid pictures — and shortly afterwards the police and local council followed up and are now said to be monitoring the situation.

I made a slight contribution to the Mole’s work in the form of a few comments about how Romanian human trafficking gangs generally work. They are a much bigger problem in Italy, Spain and France but it seems the UK is not immune.

Read all about it here:

Beyond antisocial behaviour, which is a nuisance of course, the police should make sure that there is no modern slavery or other organised crime going on around the activity of these escorts. Trust the Mole to keep chasing the story.

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Moldova’s other choice

Maia Sandu could be living proof that Moldovans don’t necessarily have to choose between handing their lives over to either oligarchs or communists.

A plane with the name of the country written across it. Creative commons license, Pieter van Marion, Flickr[dot] com

A plane with the name of the country written across it. Creative commons license,
Pieter van Marion, Flickr[dot] com

Much has changed for the better in Moldova in recent months — there is a new governor of the central bank after a much-publicized series of frauds which nearly bankrupted the government, a new interpretation of the constitution allows people to directly elect the president after about 15 years of only electing members of parliament, and a new voice championing reform, human rights, liberal democracy and the rule of law emerged from the chaos of winter: Maia Sandu, the former education minister.

Sources with inside knowledge of Maia Sandu’s fledgling political organization tell me she is going to formally register a new centrist political party some time in late April. They have so far signed up 6,000 members (population of Moldova: 3.5 million) and created six or seven regional offices. More are on the way. Chicanery from the current oligarch-controlled government is expected during the process of making the party eligible for elections, one source says.

To learn who Sandu is and what she wants, please read on.

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Another Brick Lane Tale

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Brick Lane on a Sunday in August 2014. Personal archive

Much ink has been used on the topic of how the East End is now compared to the good ol’ days.

Of all the well-documented waves of immigrants that came here, Eastern Europeans like me are the newest. I was broke and friendless, having just been kicked out of a shared house in Stratford in February 2012 when a an old Bengali man gave me a room. Jakir, Hussain and other Bengalis from the neighbourhood often gave me work helping with their businesses when I found myself down and out. None of them ever complained about gentrification – on the contrary, they are better off for it. The value of their houses went up, the wealth of their customers as well, and E1, E2 and E3 became fashionable postcodes.

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The ‘silent secret’ app

Before spending eight months as a night-shift delivery driver for a posh deli called Benugo, I distributed flyers advertising the Silent Secret app to children in Barking, East London, for a few hours in December 2014 as a means to some quick spare cash.

A few months after it was done, the creator of this app approached me to write him an article puffing his brainchild in one of the magazines I contribute to. This is how I got this story. Obligingly, I wrote an item and managed to sell it to a magazine like he asked.

Well, the magazine and the article weren’t quite like he asked. Private Eye kindly published the article in July, and I suspect the manager of the app now regrets calling me. If he hadn’t I wouldn’t have looked closely into what exactly his company does.

Now I’m glad I distributed those flyers, otherwise I’d never have known about this mess of an app.

While obviously not silent since it explicitly urges vulnerable children to “speak out”, the app turns out be not exactly secret either, since it does a poor job at preserving the anonymity of its contributors. The big question is why the Government put £157.9K of taxpayer money into it.

Here’s the Eye:

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Gentles’ Easter

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-all pictures mine (full copy rights etc)

Celebrated the week after Easter, Gentles’ Easter is widely considered the most important holiday of the year by many Moldovans. This year it fell on the 19th and 20th of April, when cemeteries in all the towns, cities and villages of Moldova are coming alive with people laying tables and spending a full day with the family and the community eating and drinking among the graves.

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No Subject

Fluke Mafaldo

[cut up by D.C.H.P; from the deep drawer]

Before I had a chance
To know more, night left.
A mistake of madness
And long lost thought.

I simply got bored
Looking at time looming in.

Do you mind being strange?
So painfully sensitive?
Conscious of people.

Aware of chaos,
The universe looks

My whisper,
Words find me.

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Antisocial Behaviour…

execution Anastasia CIupac. Full copyright

execution Anastasia CIupac. Full copyright

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I used #BBCAskThis…

… to bring up issues I think have been as yet overlooked in the campaign leading up to the UK general elections. I have no idea whether the questions will be considered – I made them out in writing and the BBC said they should be in cute, video selfie format, which I don’t do.

Journalism is proving a harder addiction to shake off than I previously imagined.

I digress. Here they are, in case anyone’s wondering what a Romanian immigrant with no right to vote believes are important political issues:

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