In a statement on Thursday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made it clear that while it welcomed interest from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office in its Panama Papers project, it would not be taking part in any official investigation.
Preet Bharara, who heads the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, wrote to ICIJ that his office had “opened a criminal investigation regarding matters to which the Panama Papers are relevant.”
On Thursday, in a brief phone conversation, ICIJ's counsel told prosecutors in Bharara's office that the organization would not turn over unpublished data.
"We certainly welcome the U.S. Attorney's Office reviewing all of the information from the Panama Papers series that we have made available to our readers and conducting its own investigation,” said ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle, in a statement. “However, ICIJ does not intend to play a role in that investigation. Our focus is journalism.”
“ICIJ, and its parent organization the Center for Public Integrity, are media organizations shielded by the First Amendment and other legal protections from becoming an arm of law enforcement," he said.
The U.S. investigation is just one of multiple investigations around the world that have been touched off by the Panama Papers revelations published by ICIJ, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.
Earlier this month, what had been expected to be a meeting of tax officials from 28 countries drew officials from 35 nations — including the United States, who have agreed to work jointly to develop a plan to tackle any tax crimes revealed by Panama Papers data.
“All 35 jurisdictions represented at the meeting signed up to take joint compliance actins where appropriate,” said Australian commissioner of taxation Chris Jordan who called the meeting and who heads the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development’s Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration network. “The network is also exploring the use of taskforces and smaller working groups to make faster inroads,” he said, according to the Australian Financial Review.