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The idea seemed simple centuries ago when governments began to deploy a different kind of diplomat to advance their cultural and economic interests in outposts around the world.
Honorary consuls are not nearly as high-profile as ambassadors and other career diplomats. As private citizens, the volunteer consuls work from their home countries to represent the foreign governments that nominate them. The arrangement was meant to build country-to-country alliances without the need for embassies and staff, an inexpensive and benign diplomatic arrangement that over the years was embraced by a majority of the world’s governments.
But a first-of-its-kind global investigation by ProPublica and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that corrupt, violent and dangerous honorary consul appointees — including those accused of aiding terrorist regimes — have turned a system meant to leverage the work of honorary citizens into a perilous form of rogue diplomacy that has threatened the rule of law around the world.
Reporting was contributed by Eva Herscowitz, Emily Anderson Stern, Hannah Feuer, Michael Korsh, Jordan Anderson, Diana Moukalled, Hala Nasreddine, Nicole Sadek and Dejan Milovac,
of the Medill Investigative Lab.