Gao, Mali: Photography by C4ADS

Organized Crime and Grand Corruption Cell


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Organized Crime and Grand Corruption Cell

The newest generation of illicit actors are inter-connected, globalized, and technologically savvy. Nuclear proliferators maintain complex webs of proxies and shell companies, while pariah states use similar networks to arm and equip their surrogates around the world. Meanwhile, international terrorist organizations and other perpetrators of mass atrocities operate multi-billion dollar commercial empires with global reach, funneling proceeds through Western jurisdictions.

C4ADS uses open data from global business directories, tax registries, property listings, court documents, intellectual property records, and trade gazettes from over 120 jurisdictions around the world. We structure and analyze this data to map and expose illicit networks around the world. Current focus areas include investigating Human TraffickingDPRK Overseas Procurement Networks, and Latin American Corruption

December 12, 2017


Recent United Nations Security Council resolutions 2371 and 2375 and United States Executive Order 13810 have dramatically increased restrictions on North Korean overseas economic activity. Though North Korea has employed an array of overseas networks to counter international sanctions, the need to adapt had fundamentally changed the regime's international economic exposure. Today, the regime is dependent on the flow of hard currency to function. Maintaining this access and evading sanctions have required the regime's foreign exchange banks to offshore critical financial infrastructure overseas. The resulting illicit overseas networks play a vital role as proxies for the North Korean banking and foreign exchange systems. However, being integrated into the international systems of banking, commerce, and logistics leaves these networks exposed to international law enforcement actions.



June 12, 2017

North Korea employs a global array of overseas networks to circumvent international sanctions and continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons. These networks are engaged in schemes as diverse as cybercrime, military equipment sales, currency counterfeiting, narcotics, and even wildlife trafficking. They make up a complex overseas financing and procurement system designed to raise the funds and materials North Korea needs for its regime security and weapons programs. As sanctions have tightened, these networks have grown increasingly important to the regime. Moreover, they illustrate how North Korean officials have gained a deep understanding of international trade, finance, and transportation and how to nest their illicit activities within them. In this report, we conduct a system-level examination of the North Korean overseas financing and procurement system. Our paper finds that this system is centralized, limited, and vulnerable, and that its disruption should greatly increase the pressure on the Kim regime to return to the negotiating table.



September 19, 2016

North Korea’s overseas trading networks are evolving, and Pyongyang’s expansive business dealings with China, its biggest trading partner, are driving changes in the character, scope, and methods of these networks. As a result of these changes, North Korea and the entire Northeast Asian region face greater instability as regime elites in Pyongyang become increasingly willing and able to procure the strategic resources they need for regime security and weapons development.  



February 5, 2016

Conditions for Muslims have steadily declined in Myanmar, with the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine State facing the gravest threat. In 2012, the country was rocked by the worst sectarian violence in over 50 years, resulting in 200 killed and 140,000 displaced, mostly Rohingya. A 2015 study by the United States Holocaust Museum counted 19 early warning signs of genocide in Myanmar since the start of sectarian violence. Another study by the International State Crime Initiative concluded that the Rohingyas had already passed the first four stages of genocide, including dehumanization and segregation, and are now on the verge of mass annihilation. Anti-Muslim sentiment has grown so widespread that even Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party declined to field a single Muslim among their roster of 1,100 candidates for the November 2015 elections.


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