Sunday Times Fifa Files and Private Eye's 'Shady Arabia' probe joint winners of the Paul Foot Award

Private Eye and The Sunday Times were last night named joint winners of the Paul Foot Award for campaigning and investigative journalism.

The Sunday Times Insight team – Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake – were recognised for the Fifa Files investigation into corruption around the Qatar World Cup bid.

Private Eye’s Richard Brooks and Andrew Bousfield were recognised for “Shady Arabia and the Desert Fix”, the investigation into corruption around a Saudi arms contract.

Each of the winners received £3,000.

The five runners up were:

  • Richard Pendlebury, Daily Mail – Migrant Lives
  • Claire Newell, Holly Watt, Claire Duffin and Ben Bryant, Daily Telegraph – Qatar 2022 World Cup Bid
  • George Monbiot, The Guardian – How farmers caused the floods
  • Mark Townsend, The Observer – Sexual abuse of women at Yarl’s Wood
  • Dominic Ponsford and William Turvill, Press Gazette – Save Our Sources.

It was the tenth of anniversary of the award which is run by Private Eye and The Guardian in memory of Paul Foot.

Here are the winner’s citations in full:

The Fifa Files

Over a period of a month in 2014 the Sunday Times Insight team spilled the secrets of a bombshell cache of hundreds of millions of secret documents, “The Fifa Files”, leaked by a whistle-blower from the heart of football.   In forensic detail, they reported on extraordinary campaign waged by Mohammed Bin Hammam, Qatar’s top football official, and how he exploited his position to help secure the votes Qatar needed to win the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

The team spent two months painstakingly investigating in a secret data centre outside London to piece together a timeline of Bin Hammam’s activities, going through emails, faxes, phone records, letters, flight logs, accounts and bank transfer slips, examining tens of thousands of gigabytes of data using forensic search technology and a network of offshore supercomputers.   They reported on cash hand outs, lavish junkets and evidence of payments to football officials across Africa – including the transfer of funds into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the Fifa executive committee member for Trinidad and Tobago. 

Shady Arabia and the Desert Fix

The campaign is the culmination of an ongoing Private Eye investigation into corruption on a contract between the UK and Saudi governments.

In 2012, the team obtained details from a whistle blower of illicit payments and gifts made on a multi-billion pound contract between the British Government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the delivery of electronic warfare equipment to the Saudi Arabian National Guard.   Over the following two years the team unravelled the mechanisms of the bribery for the contract, revealed those who had accepted corrupt payments, and exposed the network behind the deal – as well as revealing the highly sensitive matter of the Ministry of Defence's complicity in bribery even as the Coalition government professed to be clamping down on corruption.

The team examined corporate records and other histories in the UK, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Liechtenstein that stretched back over forty years.   They revealed the names of officials who had been complicit in decades of bribery, with its origins in the earliest days of the British arms trade in Saudi Arabia.    A few months after the story broke, the Serious Fraud Office announced a criminal investigation which continues today.

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