Secret Documents Expose Offshore’s Global Impact

4 April 2013 — ICIJ

ICIJ has just launched the largest investigative reporting project in its 15-year history. Drawing on a leaked cache of 2.5 million records, ICIJ (a project of the Center for Public Integrity) 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 all over the world.

This offshore information totaled more than 260 gigabytes of data—about the same amount of information as would be found in half a million books. It is one of the biggest collections of leaked data ever gathered and analyzed by journalists. 

Working with a team of 86 investigative reporters from 46 countries, and using high-tech data crunching and shoe-leather reporting to sift through corporate documents, emails, account ledgers and other files covering decades, ICIJ’s 15-month investigation found that, alongside perfectly legal transactions, the secrecy and lax oversight offered by the offshore world allows fraud, tax dodging and political corruption to thrive.

Patrons identified in the documents include:

  • Individuals and companies linked to Russia’s Magnitsky Affair, a tax fraud scandal that has strained U.S.-Russia relations and led to a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans.
  • A Venezuelan deal maker accused of using offshore entities to bankroll a U.S.-based Ponzi scheme and funneling millions of dollars in bribes to a Venezuelan government official.
  • A corporate mogul who won billions of dollars in contracts amid Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s massive construction boom even as he served as a director of secrecy-shrouded offshore companies owned by the president’s daughters.
  • Indonesian billionaires with ties to the late dictator Suharto, who enriched a circle of elites during his decades in power.
  • The eldest daughter of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of using his position as president to amass an estimated $5 billion through corruption.

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 look yet into the secret world of tax havens and the people who make use of them.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists online

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