CCIJ Weekly Roundup

Thank you to everyone who came to our Metaverse Launch Party!  From there, read about CCIJ member Sonja Smith’s recent reports on Namibian Prime Minister Saarah Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who may be leveraging her governmental position for personal gain. And learn about Executive Director Jeff Kelly Lowenstein’s 2017 investigation that preceded a recent federal indictment of a Massachusetts family on counts of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.

Metaverse Launch Party

On August 25, CCIJ revealed our first metaverse exhibit, a shared virtual space that will operate as a new and powerful platform for people to experience CCIJ stories. Our exhibit is one of the first journalism spaces in the metaverse, making it a groundbreaking addition not just for our organization, but for international newsrooms as well. The event included comments by Innovation Director Jon Lowenstein and metaverse developer Karen Eng, a presentation from Lamin Jahaten and Jason Florio, who produced “The Gambia’s Water Paradox” with CCIJ in June, and a demonstration of the metaverse exhibit. 

Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate this momentous launch!

Namibian Prime Minister Denies Link to Husband’s DBN Loan Leniency

On Friday, CCIJ member Sonja Smith published a detailed report showcasing the potential special treatment the state-owned Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) has shown businessman Onesmus ‘Tona” Amadhila, the husband of Prime Minister Saarah Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. While Amadhila’s loans – totaling N$180 million from 2014 to 2020 – are allegedly considered among the top non-performing loans of the DBN, the bank has failed to institute strong action against him. Simultaneously, the bank has brought several other companies and individuals to court for loans far smaller than Amadhila, including a company the DBN sued last month for failing to pay $N550,000. The DBN directly reports to the finance minister, a position Kuugongelwa-Amadhila held until March of 2015. 

Immediately following the story’s publication, Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila responded, asserting she had never used her position to secure special treatment for her husband and that “such allegations are without basis and are malicious.”

Read more about the initial report and the Prime Minister’s response here and here

Namibian Prime Minister Encurs Profits from San Farmhouse Sale

A second groundbreaking report by CCIJ member Sonja Smith illustrates how Namibian Prime Minister Saarah Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and husband Onesmus ‘Tona’ Amadhila sold two farms occupied by San community members for a N$8.9 million profit, leaving the farmhouse diliptated and “to rats and snakes.” Additionally, when Kuugongelwa-Amadhila arrived, she allegedly failed to deliver crucial resettlement documents to the President and denied San community members access to the items the previous owners had left in their possession. 

Read the whole story here.  

Jafaars Charged in Multi-Million Lottery Fraud Following 2017 Investigation by CCIJ’s Executive Director Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

In 2017, CCIJ’s Executive DIrector Jeff Kelly Lowenstein and Boston Globe colleague Michael Levenson broke the story on the Jaafar family of Watertown, Massachusetts, who from 2011 to 2017 cashed in more than 7,000 winning lottery tickets for a total prize of $11 million. The Jaafar family was suspected of being “10 percenters” – professional cashers who claim lottery tickets on behalf of real winners to help them avoid state taxes, child support or other debts that would be subtracted from the total earnings. In exchange, they keep a portion of the prize money. Following the report, Kelly Lowenstein and WBUR colleague Lisa Creamer followed the story for an additional two years.

Their hard work paid off. On Monday, a 19-page indictment was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, charging Ali Jaafar and his sons Mohamed Jaafar and Youset Jaafar with more than a dozen counts of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. 
Read the original report here and learn more about the indictment here.