Uncovering the ‘Healthcare Mafia’: The Importance of Foreign Language Media Research

Too often, due diligence begins and ends with databases. But while criminal and civil litigation searches, regulatory screenings, and sanctions checks are essential components of an investigation, they rarely tell the whole story. Searches of online and local media sources are crucial to developing a comprehensive profile on a subject, especially when operating in highly corrupt countries. A case Vcheck Global handled this year shows why.

In February 2019, a New York-based commercial real estate lender retained Vcheck Global to conduct a full-scope background investigation on a potential borrower—a Bangladeshi national. As part of the process to obtain a visa to enter the United States, the borrower had already passed an FBI criminal record check, but the investors sought a more comprehensive review.

Leveraging a local partner on the ground, Vcheck Global conducted a comprehensive Bengali-language media screen that revealed the borrower was deeply involved in corrupt, criminal activities—so involved that the local media had dubbed him the “healthcare mafia” of Bangladesh. Local Bengali-language news sources had reported extensively on his corrupt activities, which included repeatedly engaging in schemes to defraud the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health, procuring prostitutes for Ministry of Health officials in order to blackmail them, and hiding $32 million in offshore bank accounts to evade Bangladeshi taxes.

As an influential, wealthy, and well-connected businessman in a highly corrupt nation, the borrower avoided any legal action and passed the FBI’s record check without a problem. But our investigation—and our capability to conduct media checks in the local language—saved the client from a potentially costly mistake.

Ishan Sawai is an investigator at Vcheck Global LLC specializing in the Middle East and North Africa. Prior to joining Vcheck Global, he served as an intern in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, investigating sanctions evasion.