TRACE Foundation Announces 2020 TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting Recipients

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ANNAPOLIS, MD—28 May 2020—The TRACE Foundation, a non-profit organization established by TRACE to support projects that encourage greater commercial transparency, today announced the winners of the 2020 TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting with a virtual award ceremony featuring a keynote speech by veteran journalist Charles Lewis. The annual award recognizes journalism that uncovers business bribery or related financial crime.

Iraqi journalist Asaad Al-Zalzalee was awarded the TRACE Prize for his investigation “Schools of Illusion,” which uncovered widespread corporate fraud that led to the waste of more than US$200 million that was allocated to build schools in Iraq.

“Journalism work in Iraq is like walking on a minefield that may end your life and freedom at any moment,” Al-Zalzalee said in his acceptance speech. “But still today, we exist and write, and we still believe in the principles for which you have established this award.”

The second recipient of this year's TRACE Prize was Renee Dudley, a senior reporter with ProPublica, whose investigation “The Extortion Economy” uncovered a scheme in which businesses purportedly aimed at helping the victims of ransomware actually foster the practice by secretly paying off the hackers. The project profiled a young “geek” in Illinois who developed ransomware decryption tools in his spare time.

“In our profile of Mr. Gillespie, we showed how he and his collaborators are the opposite of the ransomware enablers we’ve written about,” Dudley said. “This ransomware hunting team and TRACE have something in common: a commitment to promoting transparency.”

An honorable mention was awarded to Dubai-based journalist Mazhar Farooqui for his investigation into a shady job recruitment operation out of India. The Bribery Division team, which included reporters from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, La Posta, McClatchy and other organizations, also earned an honorable mention for their investigation that unearthed new angles in the Operation Car Wash scandal. 

“The TRACE Foundation created this award to support journalists who are uncovering corruption and holding those involved accountable, sometimes at enormous personal cost,” TRACE President Alexandra Wrage said. “The bravery and tenacity of these journalists is palpable, and we are proud to recognize these incredibly deserving projects.”

The judging panel for the 2020 TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting included William Gumede, Diana B. Henriques, Rosebell Kagumire, Peter Klein, Donatella Lorch and Jorge Luis Sierra.

TRACE will begin accepting submissions for the 2021 TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting in the fall of 2020. For more details, visit

About the TRACE Foundation

The TRACE Foundation was established to promote, support and fund research, investigative journalism, publications, videos and related projects that encourage greater commercial transparency and advance anti-bribery education. For more information, visit