Continuing our investigation into the trillion-dollar world of offshore tax havens

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 Updated:

Our reporting of previously secret off-shore companies and trusts from the British Virgin Islands to Singapore will continue throughout this year. The exact value of wealth held offshore in tax havens is hard to come by, but it is estimated to encompass $21-32 trillion in private financial assets. 

So far, the work by the Center’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has been republished or cited some 6,500 times by news organizations worldwide. Media in France, Spain and other places have given front-page play to stories about ICIJ’s reports, which have become known in shorthand on Twitter and in many news outlets simply as “Offshore Leaks.” The reaction has been positive, in almost all cases.

  • A reporter for the Financial Times tweeted that “the leak of 260GB of data on offshore companies - this could be the biggest story of the year.”
  • A Belgian news website called this “Probably the most significant journalistic collaboration in history.”
  • However, a Wall Street Journal columnist called it an “offshore witch hunt.”  

Already we can see the impact the stories are having, especially in Europe, where governments have been moving toward more transparency:

Meanwhile, requests that we turn over the leaked off-shore data to authorities are continuing to come in from various governments, including the U.S., France, Canada, Greece, the Philippines and others. French budget minister Bernard Cazeneuve, for example, joined the clamor from governments around the globe in urging ICIJ and its media partners to release the offshore tax haven files to them, to "aid justice and help them do their job."  

So far, ICIJ and its worldwide media partners have declined such requests and  have chosen not to simply release raw mountains of data. ICIJ is continuing its responsible investigations in country after country, focusing on the public interest—public figures, banking and business leaders, as well as the crooks and fraudsters, who make use the off-shore industry to hide their money.

As we are seeing with the initial release of previously secret tax haven information, transparency and accountability can be powerful motivators for changed behavior and demands for more scrutiny.

Until next week,

Bill