Secret documents expose offshore’s global impact

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The Center for Public Integrity’s international team has just launched the largest investigative reporting project in its 15 year history.

Drawing on a leaked cache of 2.5 million files, ICIJ has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and about 130,000 individuals and agents, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and the mega-rich in more than 170 countries and territories all over the world. 

ICIJ stands for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an elite group of 160 investigative reporters in 60 countries that is a long-standing initiative of The Center for Public Integrity. The offshore tax haven project has so far involved some 89 journalists in 46 countries, and growing.

This leaked offshore information totaled more than 260 gigabytes of data — about the same amount of information as would be found in half a million books. I believe this may be the largest amount of leaked data ever gathered and analyzed by journalists. ICIJ’s research involved using high-tech data crunching and shoe-leather reporting to sift through corporate documents, emails, account ledgers and other files covering nearly 30 years. Alongside perfectly legal transactions, the secrecy and lax oversight offered by the offshore world allows fraud, tax dodging and political corruption to thrive.

To analyze the documents, ICIJ collaborated with journalists from The Guardian and the BBC in the U.K., Le Monde in France, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Germany, The Washington Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and 31 other media partners around the world.

If you want to understand why the trillions of dollars in offshore accounts are such a critical issue for every country and the global economy, read this investigation — the most transparent and illuminating look ever into the secret world of tax havens and the people who make use of them.