Mazhar Farooqui
Mazhar Farooqui Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: A Gulf News journalist has bagged an international journalism award for a story that blew the lid off a global multi-million dollar job racket last year.

Senior Features Editor Mazhar Farooqui won an honourable mention and $1,000 at the TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting at a virtual award ceremony held in Maryland, USA on Thursday evening.

Farooqui’s story uncovered how the India-based job portal Wisdom Jobs, with 33 million registered users, had been using in-house call centre agents to impersonate recruitment managers of top companies to offer non-existent jobs.

Within days of the exposé, the Indian police launched a crackdown on the company and arrested its CEO and 13 other staff members. They were charged with collecting millions of dollars for service fees from over 100,000 job seekers worldwide.

The judges described the story as extremely well written, engagingly told and compellingly recorded. The expose was also ranked among the best investigative stories published out of the MENA region in 2019, by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)

Read more on the Wisdom Jobs scam

TRACE Foundation is a US-based non profit organisation. Their annual award recognises journalism that uncovers business bribery or related financial crime. The award ceremony featured a keynote speech by veteran journalist Charles Lewis.

Iraqi journalist Asaad Al-Zalzalee was awarded the TRACE Prize for his investigation ‘Schools of Illusion’ which uncovered widespread corporate fraud involving US$200 million allocated to build schools in Iraq,

Renee Dudley, a senior reporter with ProPublica won a prize for her story ‘The Extortion Economy’ which uncovered a scheme in which businesses purportedly aimed at helping ransomware victims secretly pay off the hackers.

The Bribery Division team, which included reporters from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, La Posta, McClatchy and other organisations, also earned an honourable mention for their investigation that unearthed new angles in the Operation Car Wash scandal.

TRACE President Alexandra Wrage said, “The bravery and tenacity of these journalists is palpable, and we are proud to recognise these incredibly deserving projects.”

The judging panel included William Gumede, Diana B. Henriques, Rosebell Kagumire, Peter Klein, Donatella Lorch and Jorge Luis Sierra.