Martyn McLaughlin

Scotland on Sunday

Throughout the past 18 months, Martyn McLaughlin has combined forensic investigative skills with impactful and sensitive reporting to produce a series of agenda-setting exclusives.

An outstanding example of his ability to break globally significant stories came after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Thanks to years spent writing about how opaque corporate structures are used to launder money from the former Soviet republic, Martyn set about methodically ringing around his contacts. Eventually, he made a breakthrough via longstanding sources in Washington DC. The resultant front page story, followed up by Financial Times and The Times, revealed how a Scottish entity known as Djeco Group had been placed on a trade blacklist by the US government, with authorities in Washington accusing the company of aiding the Russian military and security services. The scandal of a firm registered in Edinburgh’s quaint New Town being used for such a nefarious purpose raised searching questions about the UK’s lax corporate governance framework. It was also embarrassing enough to jolt authorities here into action; days after Martyn’s report ran, the UK government added Djeco Group to its own sanctions list. Dale Miller, head of news at Scotland on Sunday and The Scotsman, described Martyn’s story as “a compelling exclusive produced on the back of some excellent investigative work" that tapped into "heightened fears about Russian influence inside the UK." Elsewhere, a front page story by Martyn in June 2022 showcased not only his expertise in mining stories from open source public datasets, but his ability to craft powerful human interest stories. It revealed how 165 women and young girls from across Scotland had been forced to travel as far as London in order to terminate pregnancies due to a lack of late-stage abortion care in Scotland. The article’s genesis was a bespoke spreadsheet Martyn produced to scrutinise UK and Scottish abortion data. Martyn won the confidence of several women who made the journey, and told their stories with empathy and impact. One woman he spoke to had to fly to London with less than 24 hours notice after discovering she was nearly 23 weeks pregnant. In September 2021, Martyn’s data journalism skills produced another striking front page story. With the UK government’s furlough scheme coming to an end, he downloaded HMRC data detailing payments and recipients. By cross-referencing the data with Companies House records, his story laid bare how the pandemic enriched the wealthy, with millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money going to luxury private members’ clubs owned by Russian and US billionaires. Significant tranches of money flowed into companies controlled in offshore jurisdictions, and prominent recipients of funding included Donald Trump, whose Scottish businesses claimed up to £1.54m, despite making scores of redundancies. Given Covid’s calamitous impact on public finances, the details of payments sparked anger and calls for change. Dame Margaret Hodge MP, then chair of the all-party parliamentary group on anti-corruption, told Martyn the sums involved were “totally unacceptable” and demonstrated the government’s failure to include conditions to its financial support.