Crime, Corruption, and Coronavirus

Credit: OCCRP
Published: March 24, 2020

Countries around the world are struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. But in times of crisis, there are those who seek their own advantage.

Organized criminal groups and corrupt government officials often find new opportunities to consolidate illicit wealth and power. At the same time, existing corruption and criminality make it that much harder for governments to respond to the growing threat.

OCCRP is watching them. This page will bring together our coverage of those who try to benefit from border closures, commodity shortages, delayed court proceedings, and other disruptions caused by this global pandemic.

Get in Touch

Do you have information on corruption or wrongdoing related to the coronavirus pandemic? We’d like to hear from you. You can contact OCCRP journalists at or by sending an encrypted email to Aubrey Belford at (PGP). For maximum security and anonymity, use our SecureDrop service. In the hands of our team of trained researchers and journalists, your information can make a difference.

Data and Interactive

Europe's COVID-19 Spending Spree Unmasked

OCCRP and media partners from across Europe collected over 20 billion euros’ worth of COVID-19 contracts and tenders. Explore our data interactive to learn more about what we found, from pricey masks to a hydroxychloroquine boom.

21 October 2020 Read the article


Egyptian Medical Staff Treating COVID-19 Patients Given Old, Fake Masks

The masks, imported over a decade ago, are listed as counterfeit by U.S. regulators

18 December 2020 Read the article

China’s Oppressed Uighurs Made COVID-19 Protection Sold Throughout Europe

Major international distributors are selling masks and other COVID-19 protective equipment across Europe made by Chinese companies linked to possible forced labor by Uighur Muslims. Some has made it into national stockpiles and government hospitals.

16 December 2020 Read the article

Mr. HispanoPreneur™: The Man Behind Honduras’ $47-Million Coronavirus Disaster

How a self-professed business guru charged $16 million to supply mobile hospitals for COVID-19 patients, then delivered useless equipment — months late.

16 October 2020 Read the article

Questionable Paperwork Lets Fake and Faulty Masks Flood Europe

Substandard protective equipment for COVID-19 is being sold in over a dozen countries, using misleading certificates produced by businesses in the heart of Europe.

2 July 2020 Read the article

The Players and the Paperwork: Romania’s Trade in Black Market Masks

Undercover reporters from OCCRP and RISE Romania found a trade run by dealers with ties to organized crime, enabled by shady paperwork and made profitable by unscrupulous buyers.

2 July 2020 Read the article

What Lockdown? World’s Cocaine Traffickers Sniff at Movement Restrictions

Drugs keep flowing despite the global pandemic.

20 May 2020 Read the article

Uncertain Diagnosis: The Murky Global Market for Coronavirus Antibody Tests

For several days in late March, North Macedonian citizen Rodzer Zekirovski had all the symptoms of COVID-19: a high fever, aching muscles, and a dry cough. But he couldn’t manage to get a lab test at a state hospital.

6 May 2020 Read the article

The Convict and Coronavirus: Romania’s Million-Mask Mess

A Romanian national healthcare supplier bought a million masks of questionable quality from a convicted organized crime associate with political ties.

15 April 2020 Read the article

Opaque Coronavirus Procurement Deal Hands Millions to Slovenian Gambling Mogul

A Slovenian businessman with investments in gambling — and no background in healthcare — managed in just one day to secure a lucrative contract for millions of dollars in coronavirus protection equipment. It’s unclear what that equipment even is.

3 April 2020 Read the article

Features and Analysis

Authorities Warn Syndicates Turning to Cybercrime Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across virtually every area of the economy, and organized crime is no exception. OCCRP spoke with law enforcement and cybersecurity experts about how criminal groups are looking to supplement their income by heading online.

3 February 2021 Read the article

No Transparency in Kyrgyzstan’s Coronavirus Spending

Kyrgyzstan has collected hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the coronavirus pandemic. But how that money is being spent remains a mystery — and even a government ministry seems perplexed.

24 June 2020 Read the article

Arab Reporters During COVID-19 Lockdown: Life On the Edge


Editor Lina Attala lost her breath when she saw the article. It appeared on a pro-government website and claimed that her independent outlet had to close down because she contracted the novel coronavirus by “hanging out with foreigners” and her sister.

3 May 2020 Read the article

Japanese Gangs Vie for Power Amid Pandemic


Japan’s government has been criticized for its slow and inadequate response to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Japanese organized crime, meanwhile, has moved to take advantage of the crisis.

22 April 2020 Read the article

In Europe’s Scramble to Buy COVID-19 Supplies, Anti-Corruption Measures Fall Away


In a crisis, there’s no time for bureaucracy. But the special expedited procedures now being used by European governments to buy medical supplies have raised serious transparency concerns — and dodgy purchases are already multiplying.

21 April 2020 Read the article


Read more

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

And get our latest investigations on organized crime and corruption delivered straight to your inbox.