2.5 MILLION SECRET FILES UNEARTHED BY ICIJ AT THE HEART OF 15-MONTH GLOBAL INVESTIGATION
86 INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS FROM 46 COUNTRIES WORKED ON WHAT MAY BE LARGEST-EVER CROSS BORDER JOURNALISM COLLABORATION
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a project of the Center for Public Integrity, released today its first of many reports from a 15-month investigation that cracks open the historically impenetrable world of offshore tax havens.
- Government officials and their families and associates in Azerbaijan, Russia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Canada, Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert companies and bank accounts.
- The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people.
- Many of the world's top's banks – including UBS, Clariden and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways.
- A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct.
- Ponzi schemers and other large-scale fraudsters routinely use offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their ill-gotten gains.
"This investigation was the most extensive in our history. It would not have been possible without the cooperation of our international partners," said Bill Buzenberg , Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity. "Because of the magnitude of this cross-border collaboration we are able to provide a window onto the offshore world, an important step toward bringing transparency and accountability to an industry that over the last several years has grown beyond regulation and control."
The collection of leaked information, totaling more than 260 gigabytes of data, includes corporate files, emails, account ledgers, and other records that show cash transfers, incorporation dates and links between individuals and companies. It is believed to be one of the largest collections of leaked data gathered and analyzed by journalists.
The files illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy to avoid taxes, fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations. The current banking crisis in Cyprus is one example of how the offshore system can impact an entire country's financial stability.
The ICIJ worked with 86 investigative journalists from 46 countries and used data mining software and old fashioned shoe leather reporting to unveil the previously hidden but thriving world of fraud, tax dodging and political corruption.
To analyze the documents, ICIJ collaborated with journalists from The Guardian and the BBC in the U.K., Le Monde in France, Suddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Germany, The Washington Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and 31 other media partners around the world.
The reporters and editors on the project team thoroughly fact-checked the data and cross-referenced it with other information, including court records, government reports and financial databases. Team members interviewed hundreds of experts, government officials, attorneys, offshore clients and other sources around the world.
Among the countries included in the data are: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela.
About the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of reporters who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories. Founded in 1997, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity to extend the Center's style of watchdog journalism, focusing on issues that do not stop at national frontiers. With 160 members in more than 60 countries, ICIJ is dedicated to investigating cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power. Backed by the Center and its computer-assisted reporting specialists, public records experts, fact-checkers and lawyers, ICIJ reporters and editors provide real-time resources and state-of-the-art tools and techniques to journalists around the world.
About the Center for Public Integrity
The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent digital news organization specializing in original investigative journalism on significant public policy issues. Since 1990, the Washington, D.C.-based Center has released more than 500 investigative reports and 17 books to provide greater transparency and accountability of government and other institutions. It has received the George Polk Award and more than 50 other major journalism awards, including honors from Investigative Reporters and Editors, Online News Association, Overseas Press Club, Society of Environmental Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists.