Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

The fresh Prince of Brunei

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BRUNEI/By Mark Hosenball

The veins of Prince Jefri of Brunei may course with Royal blood and, though depleted by years of lawsuits, his bank accounts probably still hold enough riches to fund an imperial lifestyle. But the brother of the Sultan of Brunei didn’t get much respect from British High Court Judge Sir Peter Smith when, two years ago, Jefri failed to appear in court for a scheduled cross-examination on his tangled legal and financial affairs. (For a special report on Prince Jefri’s legal battles, click here. )

Sir Peter, who gained international attention  as the Judge who wove his own secret message into a ruling he handed down rejecting a literary theft claim filed against “Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown, showed little deference to Prince Jefri’s royal status when handing down a decision to issue a bench warrant for the prince’s immediate arrest if he sets foot on British soil.

According to a 2007 ruling from Britain’s Privy Council, Jefri served for 15 years from 1983 as chairman of the Brunei Investment Authority (BIA), an agency which holds and manages the principality’s vast oil wealth. Auditors later discovered that during Jefri’s stewardship of the agency, around $40 billion worth of “special transfers” were made from BIA accounts, and that $14.8 million had “been paid to or applied for the benefit of” Prince Jefri, according to the Privy Council.

Following the audit, a battalion of lawyers representing the Sultan and the BIA launched a worldwide treasure hunt to locate and recover assets Jefri allegedly misappropriated. Eventually, Jefri signed a settlement deal with the BIA. But according to the Privy Council, he continued nonetheless to hold onto assets which he ostensibly had agreed to surrender. This led the British Law Lords to accuse Jefri of offering excuses which were “simply incredible,” “devoid of weight” and “hopeless.”

How to make friends and influence people

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White House correspondent Caren Bohan’s special report out today examines President Barack Obama’s testy relationship with the business community.

OBAMA/After Tuesday’s election, Obama was faced with the prospect of legislative gridlock. Republicans pushed Democrats decisively from power in the House of Representatives and strengthened their ranks in the Senate as voters vented frustration over the economy.

How visible is the hand of Treasury in steering GM?

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By Kevin Krolicki

“What we are not doing — what I have no interest in doing — is running GM.”  — President Barack Obama, June 2009.

GM/GM has undergone massive changes in the nearly year and a half since the Obama administration stepped in to save and restructure the company in bankruptcy to spare it from liquidation and to save hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

How long can banks keeps ignoring home equity loans?

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By Matthew Goldstein

The $425 billion in home equity loans and other second mortgages sitting on the balance sheet of the  four biggest U.S. commercial banks is the big gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about. (See our latest special report here.)

The banks, for their part, generally have downplayed concerns about so-called second liens on mortgages. Bankers point out that less than 5 percent of home equity loans and other second mortgages are delinquent and lenders have been taking charge-offs for second liens deemed uncollectable.

Sleepy in Seattle — the future of Microsoft

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MICROSOFT/SPECIAL-REPORTThe world’s biggest software maker once inspired fear in tech land. Today it’s mostly yawns. Is Microsoft no longer a growth company? Should Google be nervous, too? And are Steve Ballmer’s days at the helm numbered?

Seattle correspondent Bill Rigby’s special report has some answers.

Spoiling the party

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Last month The New York Times had a story about Arizona Republicans putting up homeless people as candidates for the Green Party in elections there. Now Murray Waas, our Barlett & Steele award winner, has a special report about Democratic Party shenanigans. 

USA-ELECTIONS/TRICKSWaas went to Pennsylvania’s 7th district to show how Democrats helped get Tea Party activist Jim Schneller (left) on the ballot, hoping to siphon off votes from the Republican candidate.

Poor Haiti, again

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By Pascal Fletcher

HAITI/ SPECIAL REPORTIf any country deserves the description “blighted”, or a “blot on the conscience of the world”, it is surely Haiti, that pocket of poverty lying in the blue Caribbean just two hours flying time from the richest country on the planet.

Less than 10 months since a huge earthquake jolted the small but densely populated nation of 10 million people, toppling brick homes like cards in the hilly capital Port-au-Prince and killing more than half a million souls, a deadly cholera epidemic is now killing more Haitians by the dozen as an aghast world looks on in another paroxysm of sympathy.

Inside the Pirates’ Web

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CHINA-PIRACY/Reuters trade correspondent in Washington Doug Palmer had an unusual assignment: buy a fake Louis Vuitton handbag on the Internet, and take it to a LVMH store for a comparison test, before handing it over to U.S. authorities.

    What was startling was how easy it was to find websites selling a dazzling array of stuff online. This is the new face of
piracy and its costing businesses billions.   No need to skulk around back alleys or some pirate’s rental van to browse through footwear, watches, DVDs and whatnot. Just pick out your LV shoulder tote from a virtual catalog on a website based in China. It looks and feels like the real thing at a fraction of the price.

America’s “Dreamless Dead”

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Washington economics correspondent Emily Kaiser delves into plutonomies and what pollster John Zogby calls the “Dreamless Dead” for her special report on income inequality in the United States.

 
 

Here are some interesting numbers from the OECD on how the wealth gap in America compares to other countries. (Full disclosure — I’m British)