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Tobacco Underground

Entrants: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Affiliation: Center for Public Integrity


Year: 2009

Place: First Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

Tobacco Underground is a series about the global trade in smuggled cigarettes, produced by a team from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The illicit trafficking of tobacco is a multibillion-dollar business, spurring addiction to a deadly product while fueling organized crime, corruption and terrorism, while robbing governments of needed tax money. So profitable is the trade that tobacco is the world's most widely smuggled legal substance.

Judges' comments: Tobacco Underground's videos demonstrate superior production value and tell an intriguing story, with smooth direction and compelling narratives, which continued online with multimedia components (links, rollovers, maps) that showed more details such as charts, undercover video, audio and video interviews with key players, resources links, and maps with mouseover "hotspots" highlighting smuggling points around the world. In more than a year of investigating, the reporters uncovered incidents of tobacco smuggling from Indian reservations, China, the Ukraine, and Canada to a top official in Montenegro - even to various terrorists groups and the Taliban. The results are far-ranging and significant: The reporting resulted in tougher controls adopted by the World Health Organization, an investigation by Serbian authorities, and exposure of Paraguay's largest tobacco company that tried to bribe the country‘s largest newspaper to stop publication of the series.

Read "Tobacco Underground"

See the archived entry and questionnaire in which the reporter writes about how this story was written.