I try to document and understand the activities of states, individuals, companies and armed groups in vulnerable economies and armed conflicts, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa but also in Northern Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.
My work has clustered around three main themes: international tax and illicit finance; weapons and armed conflict; aid and humanitarian action. It has included:
- documenting the trafficking and illicit transportation of weapons and other conflict goods by air and sea into North and East Africa;
- field documentation of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, particularly through aerial bombardment, in East and West Africa;
- mapping corporate, financial and organised criminal networks in the Middle East and Europe;
- UN weapons inspection and sanctions investigations;
- multi-country case studies of tax avoidance by UK and US multinationals in southern Africa and Ireland;
- analysis and advocacy on international tax law and UK financial sector taxation;
- research and advocacy on humanitarian action and development financing in so-called ‘fragile states’.
I am a consultant advisor and investigator for a number of governmental and non-governmental organisations on armed conflict, international tax and illicit finance. Until 2022 I worked as Head of Enhanced Investigations (previously Head of Regional Operations in the Sahel) for Conflict Armament Research, an organisation established to investigate the use and movement of weapons, and broader conflict economies, in ongoing armed conflicts. I focussed on the western Sahel, though since 2015 I have also undertaken fieldwork in central Africa, Somalia, Iraq and southeast Asia.
Since 2009 I have intermittently been a consultant field researcher for the Small Arms Survey on Sudan and South Sudan. I served as a member of the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan in 2011, helping to document a modest renaissance of government airstrikes and non-Arab inter-ethnic fighting in eastern Darfur.
I have been fortunate in being able to collaborate with others to try to change policy and law. As Amnesty International’s Military/Security/Police researcher, I worked alongside the organisation’s country specialists to shed light on the training of youth militias by foreign mercenaries in Guinea, and the use of missile-borne cluster munitions on the village of of Al-Maajalla in southern Yemen. In 2010, as a humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam GB, I was responsible for advocacy to prevent the allocation of UK development aid on military and strategic grounds.
From 2012 to 2014 I worked as policy lead on tax and transparency for the international NGO ActionAid, responsible for quantitative and investigative research, and advocacy at the OECD, the UN Tax Committee, the 2013 G8 summit, and successive UK budgets. With others, we successfully advocated for the renegotiations of the Zambia-Netherlands and Zambia-Ireland tax treaties, then being abused by some multinational companies; for Ireland to review the ‘spillover’ effects on poorer countries of its tax treaties and domestic tax laws; and for the UK to disclose the owners of anonymous companies of the kind used for tax evasion and illicit trafficking. In 2015 I initiated a campaign for the reform of tax breaks for private equity and hedge fund managers. Working with the UK group 38 Degrees, the campaign led to reforms of the UK’s capital gains tax regime in 2015 and 2016; the research and full proposal was also included in the 2017 Labour Party manifesto. I have the minor distinction of having added to the media taxonomy of international tax avoidance, having identified during 2017 the first real-world uses of the ‘Single Malt‘, the successor structure to the famous ‘double Irish’. In response to our research, the Irish government negotiated an agreement with Malta in November 2018, closing down the loophole. In 2021, we discovered that this didn’t work.
My investigative work seeks to integrate human sources and testimony, corporate records, financial & banking documentation, transport data, satellite imagery and other remote sensing, photographic and video evidence. I have particular expertise in weapons examination and documentation in hostile environments. I’ve received basic training in international taxation at the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation in Amsterdam.
My LinkedIn profile, which provides a fuller CV, is here.