38 media outlets are probing one of biggest ever leaks of financial data- data, that includes over 2.5 million secret files including corporate files, emails, account ledgers, and other records that show cash transfers, incorporation dates and links between individuals and companies whose collective size is more than 260 gigabytes! That is one chaotic storm out there!
It reveals an intricate and so far secretive global system of tax evasion as well as the methods used to deceive fiscal authorities and hide money.
It took Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) a gruesome 15-month global investigation using 86 investigative journalists from 46 countries covering around 30 years of data! They then granted 38 media organizations access to the goldmine!
ICIJ rightfully calls this “what may be the largest cross border journalism collaboration in history.” Indeed it is!
What it lets loose is the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and almost 130,000 individual in over 170 nations and their covert business dealings almost all over the world including the Cook Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Singapore, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, etc.
The heist, if one calls it that, shows how the wealthy stash away their wealth and avoid taxes, giving rise to corruption and economic depression. Some of the people identified by the report include presidents, wealthy individuals and families, government officials, a British millionaire, Maria Imedla Marcos Manotoc, eldest daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Canadian class-action lawyer Tony Merchant, Wife of Russia’s deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, a Spanish baroness and art collector, Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and a list of thousands of people from around the world.
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.
To analyze the documents, ICIJ collaborated with journalists from The Guardian and the BBC in the U.K., Le Monde in France, Suddeutsche Zeitung andNorddeutscher 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.