The Paradise Papers investigation of wealth stashed offshore has won a George Polk Award, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist’s second Polk Award in as many years.
The team of more than 380 journalists from six continents was honored with the Financial Reporting Award, announced by the Long Island University (LIU) at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Based on a trove of 13.4 million leaked files, the Paradise Papers exposed the secret tax machinations of some of the world’s most powerful people and corporations. The files were leaked to German reporters Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier of Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ, which brought together a collaboration of more than 90 media partners, including The New York Times, the Guardian and others from around the world.
“What had been a powerful but invisible matrix of hidden wealth known only to specialists has been exposed to the full glare of global public scrutiny and – much to the chagrin of insiders – is now a topic of kitchen-table conversations around the world. And there is no going back,” ICIJ deputy director Marina Walker Guevara noted in ICIJ’s entry letter for the award.
This is the second year in a row that an ICIJ investigation has been honored with a Polk Award, after the Panama Papers also won the Financial Reporting Award last year. It is ICIJ’s third Polk Award.
This year’s awards also gave special recognition to journalists from The New York Times and The Washington Post for “their extraordinary effort in uncovering the connection between the Trump presidential campaign and the Kremlin that led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation,” according to a statement from LIU.
“The Polk judges felt the investigative work, based on the cultivation of sources, was equally outstanding on the part of both newspapers and may play a significant role in safeguarding our democracy from foreign interference.”
Other winners announced on Tuesday included reporters from The New York Times and The New Yorker for exposing the decades-long sexual predation of the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, The Intercept for documenting the destruction of a covert U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, ProPublica and NPR for portraying the tragedies behind an alarming increase in maternal deaths in the United States and The Washington Post for digging into the past of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama to disclose on-the-record accounts of sexual assault. Awards also went to journalists from The Naples Daily News, Phoenix New Times, Buzzfeed, VICE News, CNN, CBS News, and more.
ICIJ collaborates with journalists all around the world to break stories such as the Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, Evicted and Abandoned, Fatal Extraction and more. This series gives you the inside story of what it’s like being an investigative reporter and explores some of the challenges faced by these journalists.
But what happens if you work in a place where an internet connection, or even a reliable telephone line, is far from assured?
Ask Yacouba Ladji Bama, an award-winning investigative journalist and the editor-in-chief of Burkina Faso’s newspaper, Le Reporter.
With a team of just four full-time journalists, Le Reporter has exposed financial and procurement scandals within government ministries, corruption within the judiciary and the role of high-profile ministers in the country’s recent, coup-ridden, history.
Bama learned all he knows on the job after finishing studies in sociology (he missed an enrolment deadline to sit the entry test for his first choice journalism school). He counts himself lucky to have landed an internship at a daily newspaper where, after a few days of self-doubt, he landed some scoops and has never looked back.
Bama is also a regular face on a popular Burkina Faso news programs. “Aren’t you the one on television?” is the usual question that greets him when he arrives in town on a new reporting assignment.Sometimes, I’m forced to go and connect to the internet in a hotel, which is not only costly but brings with it a host of security risks Yacouba Ladji Bama
But for all the impact and public recognition, it is often the basic things that make investigative journalism in Burkina Faso so challenging.
“Telephone and internet connection costs are real headaches,” Bama said.
Le Reporter’s internet connection isn’t always reliable or strong enough to research or download large files. Responding to urgent emails can be delayed by connection failures in the office and throughout Ouagadougou, the capital city where Bama has worked as a journalist for 10 years.
“Sometimes, I’m forced to go and connect to the internet in a hotel, which is not only costly but brings with it a host of security risks,” Bama said.
It was a particular issue during his reporting on the Paradise Papers last year.Related articles
Time and time again, Bama said, he ran into problems accessing online databases where the documents were shared. It was also challenging to log on to the ICIJ’s communications platform where journalists from around the world exchanged discoveries and research tips during the long months of investigation.
“I was lucky if I could connect to the platform,” Bama remembers. “I tried many times in vain. Sometimes, even the telephones didn’t work.”
Access to public documents in Burkina Faso is another hurdle for investigative journalists, Bama said. “Access to information and public documents from the government is a very serious problem. We are dealing with a very closed administration.”
Burkina Faso adopted a freedom of information law in 2015 that, in theory, allows journalists to request and receive public documents. It is one of the few countries in the region to have such a law, according to African Freedom of Expression Exchange.
But Bama said that officials pay almost no heed to it. That’s been the case for contracts from the transport ministry about a new highway interchange and public service recruitment policy guidelines.
“Many times my requests for information have remained unfulfilled.”
Burkina Faso reporters also face “disguised forms of intimidation,” Bama said. A reporter could be unexpectedly called to the police station or asked to appear before a court. “Often we have cases brought against us whose real intention is to intimidate us, to stop us touching certain subjects.”
In the private sector, Bama said, a company or executive might offer the journalist a bribe to make a story disappear.
Despite the challenges, Bama said, he doesn’t let official or technological obstacles get in his way. “I don’t let myself be influenced, because I always do my job correctly by respecting the ethical rules of the profession.”
That way, he hopes, no one can touch him.
Read more about the challenges our members and partners face:
- Inside Story: Increased Economic And Political Pressure Puts Investigative Reporting At Risk In Poland
- Inside Story: Through death threats and scare tactics, Honduran reporter ‘perseveres’
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‘I am still in shock’: Journalists flee Venezuela to publish ongoing investigation, amid legal threats
Earlier this week, four journalists from the investigative website Armando.info have been forced to leave the troubled country citing fears of state persecution after they were sued by a business executive with ties to Maduro’s party. Armando.info is a long-term partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and worked on many projects, including the two most recent projects, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.
Their dramatic investigative series last year revealed how Colombian executive Alex Saab took advantage of connections, government contracts and an offshore enterprise to sell food at inflated prices to a government program meant to feed Venezuela’s desperately poor.
End of story? Not by any stretch.Related articles
One of the journalists, ICIJ member Joseph Poliszuk, told ICIJ that he and his colleagues would soon publish additional revelations in their series and would be safer doing so from outside the country.
“We are temporarily going abroad to publish these pieces,” Poliszuk told ICIJ.
He said they eventually plan to return to Venezuela to continue their reporting, despite the lawsuit by Saab.
“I am still a little bit in shock,” he said. “We didn’t expect this reaction.”
The scandal centers on a series of articles published by Armando.info that revealed questionable dealings in a government food program to aid the poor, an operation involving offshore companies allegedly linked to President Maduro himself.
The first article, published in April 2017, alleged that Saab, who has enjoyed close business ties with the Venezuelan government, was benefiting from a state contract to import food supplies for a program to feed the poor. The program, known as CLAP for its acronym in Spanish (Comites Locales de Abastecimiento y Produccion), is meant to prevent hunger among poor communities amid Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis.So much more could have been done with that money. Joseph Poliszuk
Documents obtained by Armando.info showed Saab’s ties to an offshore company incorporated in Hong Kong called Grupo Grand Limited. Grupo Grand Limited received a contract of $340 million from the Venezuelan state of Tachira to import food for CLAP.
The documents showed that Grupo Grand Limited charged prices well above the market rate for food staples such as tomato sauce, pasta and beans. The offshore firm charged nearly 50 percent more than the market rate for tomato sauce and roughly 80 percent above market rates for pasta and beans – even as hundreds of children across Venezuela were dying of hunger during the country’s economic collapse.
“So much more could have been done with that money,” Poliszuk said. “And what’s more, there were people who benefited.”
Saab has denied any connection to Grupo Grand Limited, although the documents obtained by Armando.info show his son listed as a beneficiary of the company, and the company is registered at the same address as another company owned by Alex Saab.
But it was another dramatic twist last August that brought the story national attention in Venezuela. Luisa Ortega, who spent a decade as Venezuela’s top prosecutor, was dismissed from her post after denouncing the Maduro regime. She then leveled an explosive allegation at a press conference in Brazil several weeks after her dismissal. President Maduro himself was a beneficiary of Grupo Grand Limited, she asserted.
Ortega said she had evidence to support these claims and would hand it over it to authorities outside Venezuela but so far has not provided proof to the public.
“With that it became scandalous because it was related directly to the president of the Republic,” Poliszuk said.Armando.info published their second story in the investigation in September last year.
In September, Armando.info published its story about Ortega’s allegations. Poliszuk and his colleagues began receiving threats sent from an anonymous Twitter account. The messages included their home addresses and other personal information, as well as an ominous statement: “Greetings to you and your beautiful family.”
Poliszuk and his colleagues, including fellow editor and ICIJ member Ewald Scharfenberg, editor Alfredo Meza and reporter Roberto Deniz, remained in the country and continued their reporting.
But mounting fears of persecution by the government later forced them to leave Venezuela. This week they noted in a press release that Saab had charged them with defamation and “aggravated injury,” crimes that carry sentences of one to six years in prison. Concerned that they would not receive a fair trial in Venezuela’s courts, all four have now temporarily left the country.
“I have doubts about Venezuelan justice,” Poliszuk said.
His own reporting had provided ample grounds for concern on this front – a July 2017 Armando.info investigation authored by Poliszuk found that 40 percent of the judges in Venezuela are members of Maduro’s ruling party.
It was not the first time Saab has taken legal action against journalists – last year he also sued Univision’s Gerardo Reyes, another ICIJ member, after Reyes reported that Saab was under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for possible connections to money laundering.
Poliszuk said he and his colleagues were determined to continue their work and publish what Poliszuk said will be significant new revelations in their series.
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ICIJ collaborates with journalists all around the world to break stories such as the Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, Evicted and Abandoned, Fatal Extraction and more. This story is part of series that gives you the inside story of what it’s like to be an investigative reporter and explores some of the challenges faced by these journalists.
Lourdes Ramirez, an ICIJ member and reporter in Honduras who focuses on human rights issues, has had the same away message on her Skype account for the past few years: “Perseverando.”
The message means “persevering.” For Ramirez, reporting on topics from a rash of unsolved murders of women to conditions in garment factories to Honduras’ powerful organized crime networks has been an act of constant perseverance, as well as considerable bravery.
For her efforts, Ramirez has received the Courage Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, awarded to women reporting in situations of risk, and the Froylan Turcios award from Honduras’ National Congress.What inspired me to do journalism were exactly those issues of human rights and poverty. Lourdes Ramirez
She has also been warned off stories by hooded men who bundled her into a vehicle to threaten her life and, years later, forced to flee Honduras after receiving another wave of death threats. Although she could have applied for asylum in the United States, she returned to the country and continued reporting.
In 2014, she worked with ICIJ on the Evicted & Abandoned investigation of forced displacement caused by development projects financed by the World Bank, joining an on-the-ground reporting trip in the violence-racked Honduran province of Bajo Aguan.
Ramirez says it is a struggle in Honduras to find work as a journalist covering human rights, crime and other problems the government prefers to keep quiet, but that she will keep on investigating those subjects.
“If I don’t do that, I feel like I’ve failed as a journalist,” Ramirez said. “Because what inspired me to do journalism were exactly those issues of human rights and poverty.”
Last June, she was abruptly removed from her Saturday morning radio broadcast Café Informativo and offered only a slot in the afternoon with a far smaller audience, despite a contract that extended into 2018. Ramirez says she was offered no explanation for the change but notes that her show frequently addressed uncomfortable topics such as human rights, corruption and government misconduct.Related articles
Ramirez left the radio station and kept up her reporting on human rights. In July, a story she worked on examined the unsolved murders of women in Honduras, a phenomenon so frequent that they have come to be referred to as “femicides.” Using police statistics, Ramirez and a colleague found that in more than 90 percent of femicides in her home city of San Pedro Sula, investigations were closed by authorities without bringing charges.
To pay the bills, Ramirez also works for a nonprofit group dedicated to combating violence. The initiative she works on, called Proyecto Genesis, works with youth in San Pedro Sula, which has the third-highest murder rate among all cities worldwide, according to The Economist.
Proyecto Genesis offers activities for young people in Chamalecon, one of the city’s most crime-affected neighborhoods, to offer them alternatives to street gangs. Ramirez works in communications, writing profiles of the youth and other materials for the organization.
Ramirez has also launched a digital newspaper, En Alta Voz, to cover politics and current events in Honduras.
She and several contributors are covering Honduras’ disputed elections, which have sparked widespread protests and international concern after incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez came from behind to take the lead in a vote count widely suspected to be tainted by fraud.
Sensitive stories, Ramirez says, are published without bylines to protect the reporters.
“I could live perfectly well as a consultant,” she said. “But I have never left journalism.”
Read more about the challenges our members and partners face:
- Inside Story: Increased Economic And Political Pressure Puts Investigative Reporting At Risk In Poland
The post Through death threats and scare tactics, Honduran reporter ‘perseveres’ appeared first on ICIJ.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury released a highly-anticipated list of wealthy Russians with close ties to the government of Vladimir Putin. It was intended to help policymakers decide on a new round of sanctions against Russia for both the country’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election and its annexation of Crimea.
But when the public portion of the list was released earlier this week, it astonished many observers: It evidently contained no original research by the U.S. government at all.Related articles
Instead the list was “an exact replica of the Russians on the 2017 billionaires list” published by Forbes, as the magazine itself noted.
“The names of and net worth of oligarchs in the unclassified version of the report were selected based on objective criteria drawn from publicly available sources,” a Treasury official told Buzzfeed
In response to questions from ICIJ about its oligarch list, the U.S. Treasury Department responded with a press release stating that, while the list it released was drawn from publicly available sources, it was submitted to congress with “classified annexes” that contained additional information.
“This included links to corruption, and international business affiliations of the named Russian persons,” the release said. “Treasury included a classified annex in the report in order to avoid potential asset flight from the named individuals and entities, as well as to prevent disclosure of sensitive information.”
This classified material, the department said, “included links to corruption, and international business affiliations of the named Russian persons. ”
The cut-and-paste list, however, was accompanied a larger retreat by U.S. President Donald Trump from new sanctions on Russia.
But the recycled Forbes’ list caught our eye for another reason. It contained a lot of names ICIJ had found in millions documents about offshore activity that made up the Panama and Paradise Papers investigations.Russia’s offshore connection
Like their global counterparts, many Russian billionaires love offshore financial services — the secretive bank accounts and trusts hidden away in tax havens across the world — and recent leaks of offshore data have exposed secrets of the wealthiest Russians and their connections.
ICIJ’s Paradise Papers and Panama Papers revealed extensive financial dealings with Russia’s richest people and their connections to both American interests and tax havens around the world, underscoring the sensitivity for the Trump Administration of compiling an Oligarch sanctions list with any bite.Wilbur Ross was found to have Russian business ties in the Paradise Papers. i Rocco Fazzari
For instance, documents from the Paradise Papers revealed U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has had financial ties to at least three wealthy Russian’s appearing on the Administration’s list.
Ross held a stake through offshore entities in Navigator Holdings, a shipping firm that receives millions of dollars from the Russian energy firm Sibur, a company owned by Vladimir Putin’s close allies. According to the Commerce Department Ross no longer has an interest in Navigator.
Two of its key owners are Kirill Shamalov (#66 in Russia, according to the 2017 World’s Billionaires list), who formerly was married to Putin’s youngest daughter, and Gennady Timchenko, a sanctioned oligarch whose activities in the energy sector, the Treasury Department said previously, were “directly linked to Putin.” Timchenko is the fourth Russian on the Forbes list.
Another powerful owner is Sibur’s largest shareholder, Leonid Mikhelson, who controls an energy company that was also previously sanctioned by the Treasury Department for propping up Putin’s rule. Mikhelson is, according to the Forbes list, also the richest businessman in Russia.
Also appearing on the administration’s list of wealthiest Russians are Alisher Usmanov (#5 on Forbes list), an Uzbek-Russian mining magnate, and Yuri Milner (#30), a star tech investor in Silicon Valley.
In November, ICIJ reported that the investment fund run by tech mogul Milner received $191 million in 2011 from a Russian government firm, VTB Bank, and invested that money in Twitter. Another state-controlled financial institution, Gazprom Investholding, funded a shell company that invested in a Milner-affiliated company that held roughly $1 billion in Facebook shares shortly before its 2012 initial public offering, documents show.The Paradise Papers revealed Yuri Milner’s Russian connections.
Usmanov was one of Milner’s most prominent backers of investments in U.S. social media. Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and three other Republican senators formally asked the Trump administration to consider adding Usmanov to the official list of oligarchs. At that point, Washington was still apparently taking the list seriously.
In response to a question from ICIJ and its partners about the shell company’s ties to the Facebook deal, Gazprom Investholding stated that its loans to the firm “were provided for general corporate purposes.”
In response to previous reporting, Rollo Head, a spokesman for Usmanov, said Usmanov “has been a highly successful investor in Russian and international assets utilizing a combination of his own and borrowed funds.” Head said none of Usmanov’s investments in Facebook used money borrowed from state institutions. As a passive investor in Milner’s deals, the spokesman said, Usmanov had no control over funds controlled by Milner or their underlying investments.
For his part, Milner confirmed VTB’s involvement in the Twitter deal but said he was unaware of any possible involvement by the Gazprom subsidiary in any of his deals.
The Paradise Papers also revealed a number of Russian billionaires who registered private jets in tax havens. For instance, Putin’s friends, billionaire brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg (#39 & #90 on the Forbes list) had relied on offshore entities to handle the taxes and other issues involved in owning luxury planes and boats, leaked files showed. The Panama Papers also revealed they owned at least seven companies registered in the British Virgin Islands
And Oleg Deripaska (#23 on the Forbes list), who has emerged as yet another Russian in the Tolstoy-sized cast of characters comprising the election-meddling scandal, also has ties to offshore jet registrations revealed in the Paradise Papers.
Deripaska and the Rotenberg brothers did not respond to earlier requests for comment on their offshore registrations by ICIJ and The Guardian.
Another Russian billionaire who made the Treasury’s list is mining magnate Dmityri Rybolovlev, revealed in Panama Papers files to have controlled an offshore company used to buy and store artworks worth $650 million. Rybolovlev, who is #15 on the Forbes list, also declined to comment.
While Rybolovlev and numerous other wealthy Russians have been identified in the Panama and Paradise Papers, they may have little to fear from the Treasury: The classified files supplementing the copied Forbes list will likely see the light of day no time soon.
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Later today, Apple chief executive Tim Cook will pick up the phone in California for a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street. As always, he is expected to provide an updated figure for the iPhone maker’s mountainous cash reserves, parked overseas as part of Apple’s highly successful tax avoidance strategy.
At last count, Apple held cash of $252.3 billion outside the U.S. at the end of September. That figure is now expected to have risen to between $258 billion and $261 billion, depending on how well early sales of the iPhone X have done over the busy Christmas sales period.
Two weeks ago, Apple confirmed that after many years refusing to do so, it will, finally, bring its offshore cash back to the U.S. following changes in tax law. Quite how Cook plans to spend the cash is what everyone wants to know — both from today’s call and from Apple’s annual shareholder meeting in less than two week’s time.
To put this money into perspective: it is an amount close to the GDP of Chile and enough to buy 20 Ford-class U.S. Navy nuclear powered aircraft carriers (the Navy currently has a program for just three).Related articles
Measured against Apple itself, the company’s offshore cash is equivalent to about a third of its current market capitalization.
As ICIJ investigations have shown, this money represents years of profits that have been contrived to arise in Irish, or stateless, Apple subsidiaries, and not in California, where most product development takes place. The cash is owned by Apple Operations International, a secretive Irish subsidiary that claims tax residency in Jersey, a tax haven in the English Channel.
This contrivance — which ensures about two-thirds of Apple’s worldwide profits are recorded outside the U.S. — has for years allowed the company to avoid billions in tax. Very little tax is been paid on these non-U.S. profits in Ireland, or elsewhere. But now, after years of U.S. tax deferrals, the earnings are returning to the U.S., where they will, finally, be taxed.
The good news for Apple, though, is that a new tax law, signed by president Donald Trump in December, means returning cash will be taxed at just 15.5 percent —not the 35 percent rate Apple has for years been deferring. We have wrote about this retroactive tax cut before. And Professor Edward Kleinbard, a leading expert in tax law at USC, summed it up succinctly when he told the LA Times it was a reward for “the world’s biggest tax scofflaw”.
So what now will Cook do with the tsunami of cash returning to the US? He has talked loudly about US job creation, and has teased Wall St with idle musings on acquisition targets. But the imperatives of the stock market are simple: if a company has cash surplus to its needs, that cash must be returned to investors.Apple is keen to sell its economic benefit to the U.S. i Apple
And since Apple already generates huge cash surpluses in the US, and is already in the middle of a record-breaking $300 billion program of buybacks and dividends, it seems a fair assumption that these capital returns will be increased.
But this is politically awkward. Tax reforms were sold to the U.S. electorate as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, not the “Tax Cuts and Buybacks Act”.
So, two weeks ago, Apple began a media spin campaign to stress its commitment to U.S. jobs, and its participation in wider American wealth creation. In a press release, Cook promised a $350bn “contribution” to the US economy over five years, creating 20,000 jobs. Accompanying images showed blue collar and factory floor workers.
But the numbers in Apple’s release are slippery, and not especially helpful in determining how much of Apple’s repatriated cash will be spent on jobs and how much on capital returns to stockholders.
Three years ago, Gary Cohn – who is now Trump’s Economic Advisor and a key player US tax reform, but was then chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs — asked Cook why he was not returning offshore cash to investors. Here’s what the Financial Times reported Cook said:
At the time, activist funds led by Carl Icahn — who would later became a Trump advisor (and was also found in our Paradise Papers investigation) — and David Einhorn had bought into Apple stock and were pressing Cook for more aggressive capital returns to stockholders.
Einhorn and Icahn’s view was that Apple stock was undervalued because no U.S. government would never dare to tax the billions of dollars in profits Apple had parked offshore at a rate as high as 35 percent. And together, they successfully pressured Cook to instigate an unprecedented capital return program at Apple, which has effectively continued ever since.
But now, in 2018, Apple has even more cash available for return to investors. And the prospect of large buybacks and dividends has helped the stock climb more than 50 percent since Trump won the White House with promises tax reform.Apple’s stock rise since Trump won office. Source: Nasdaq i Nasdaq
On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump said he would get Apple to make its “damn computers and things” in the US. (The remark was made at the end of a long speech to an audience of evangelical Christians at Liberty University, watch from 49min19sec).
As president-elect, he went further, telling the he had spoken directly to Cook about the link between tax cuts and job creation.An excerpt from the New York Times interview with Donald Trump in November, 2016. i New York Times
Already, Trump has now chalked up Apple’s cash repatriation plans as a victory his tax reforms and for American workers.
I promised that my policies would allow companies like Apple to bring massive amounts of money back to the United States. Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS. Huge win for American workers and the USA! https://t.co/OwXVUyLOb1
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2018
But history tells us past repatriation tax breaks that were designed to create US jobs have failed. A paper called “Watch what I do, not what I say” is a careful analysis of the impact of Homeland Investment Act 2004 on jobs.From the abstract of ‘Watch What I Do, Not What I Say’.
A repeat study would be helpful. No need to change the title, though.
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Switzerland and the United States are the biggest promoters of financial secrecy according to an index published today by the Tax Justice Network (TJN). The index ranks countries based on their level of secrecy and the percentage of financial services provided to non-residents.Top 10 jurisdictions:
- United States
- Cayman Islands
- Hong Kong
- United Arab Emirates (Dubai)
Switzerland, a well-known tax haven, whose practices were uncovered by ICIJ’s 2015 Swiss Leaks investigation, is still the worst offender as far as financial secrecy is concerned, according to TJN’s analysis. “Switzerland has delayed the implementation of automatic information exchange, and in 2017 lawmakers attempted to stop it altogether with countries they deemed ‘corrupt’,” the report noted.
As for the United States, it has refused to take part in international efforts to curb financial secrecy and instead set up a parallel system that seeks information on U.S. citizens abroad but does not provide data to foreign countries. Several U.S. states are also considered tax havens including Delaware, which doesn’t tax intangible assets such as intellectual property, patents or trademarks. “More than 66 percent of the Fortune 500 have chosen Delaware as their legal home,” claims the state’s Division of Corporations website.The 2018 release confirms the long-term picture, that the richest and most powerful countries have continued to pose the greatest global risks. Alex Cobham, Tax Justice Network
This is not new. The U.S. ranked third in TJN’s 2015 secrecy index. Back in 2016, Mark Hays, senior adviser with Global Witness, told the Washington Post, “we often say that the U.S. is one of the easiest places to set up so-called anonymous shell companies.” Last month, a Bloomberg article referred to America as “one of the world’s best places to hide money from the tax collector.”
“The 2018 release confirms the long-term picture, that the richest and most powerful countries have continued to pose the greatest global risks – with Switzerland and the U.S. established as the key facilitators of illicit financial flows,” said TJN chief executive Alex Cobham.
Some of the criteria used to build the index include the absence of a public register, harmful tax residency rules and whether the system allows for bearer shares, which obscure ownership.
TJN noted some improvements since the 2008 financial crisis, most notably the automatic exchange of information that will be implemented in 2018 for many countries, including the Bahamas, Samoa and St. Kitts and Nevis. The report also underlines increased public pressure in favor of public registers of companies’ owners.Related articles
Yet, in the meantime the European Union, put together a blacklist of 17 secrecy jurisdictions last month, only to delist eight countries a few weeks later, including Panama (ranked 12 on the secrecy index) and Macao (ranked 22). In addition, members of the EU themselves rank high on the secrecy index: Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Malta and Germany are among the top 20 jurisdictions promoting financial secrecy. As for the United Kingdom, it continues to shelter financial secrecy through its crown dependencies, including tax havens Guernsey (ranked 10), Jersey (ranked 18) and the Isle of Man (ranked 42).
Among the countries that are new on the TJN list are Kenya, with a very high secrecy score of 80%, even higher than Mauritius (72%), which is one of Africa’s most high-profile tax havens. Although Kenya ranks high (9) on TJN’s secondary index based on secrecy only, it is much lower on the main index (27), given its rather small market share. This “is an example of how interests of western financial service lobbyists have successfully lured governments into a race to the bottom,” said the report.
“The damage being done to public services around the world is incalculable, and the violations in human rights are severe, whether this be through a lack of access to clean drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa or the pressures facing public health services in the UK and U.S.,” said Liz Nelson, TJN Director responsible for the Tax Justice and Human Rights program.
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Reporters are navigating a more treacherous environment than any time in recent memory, and despite a plethora of digital tools to keep them safe – many are failing to adopt new strategies.
The press’s enemies have been boosted by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has lodged almost daily attacks against journalists, and many have followed his lead. Wealthy private interests have launched their own crusades: a private firm was hired to undermine New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer’s reporting on Koch Industries, and Harvey Weinstein offered big bucks to a military-grade surveillance firm to spy on reporters and their sources breaking the story of his sexual harassment.
These threats are compounded by increasingly potent hacking tools falling into the hands of governments around the world and, in some cases, hackers serving government interests. This makes personal cybersecurity an essential first line of defense for reporters everywhere.
Yet many journalists are failing to utilize some of the most basic tools to keep them and their sources safe from digital attack. A recent study by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression found that some of the most at-risk journalists “frequently disregard their sense of insecurity even when they feel unsafe in public or cyberspace.”
So what can journalists (and citizens) do to better protect themselves online? Here are five security tools that have emerged as among the most commonly recommended for reporters and news organizations as well as their sources.1. Signal and other end-to-end encrypted apps
Phone calls and digital messaging often comprise the bulk of a journalist’s workday. But conventional lines of communication can leave the contents of conversations vulnerable to hacking. And, even if someone is not able to intercept to the contents of these chats, a hacker can still access extensive archives of related metadata, including who you talked to and when.
But there are an increasing number of options to help you communicate securely with a high degree of confidence.
As we settle into 2018, the app Signal — possibly you’ve already heard of it – is a clear favorite for secure voice calls and messaging between journalists, their editors, and sometimes their civil servant sources.You can easily use the Signal app on your phone.
“Everyone is really enthusiastic about Signal,” said Harlo Holmes, director of newsroom digital security with the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Right now it’s the state of the art in terms of encrypted communication.”
To the user, Signal looks and operates like a traditional chat app, and also allows you to avoid expensive international call and text fees. But Signal also offers what’s called end-to-end encryption, meaning communications can only be deciphered on the physical devices of the communicating users. Even if a government tried to compel the group of developers that administers Signal to turn over your communications, it couldn’t provide information: Signal simply has no ability to figure out exactly what you’re doing on its platform.
An increasing number of digital platforms are using end-to-end encryption, but some popular products differ from Signal in one key way: While some of these firms may not be able to access the content of your communications, they can often access valuable metadata that may reveal who you were communicating with and when. These apps also may allow users to inadvertently send messages without end-to-end encryption.
To learn more about Signal, Holmes recommends checking out the foundation’s page on Security Planner, a project of University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.2. Secure file storage and encrypted sharing
A large portion of our lives are often stored on our laptops and the messaging platforms, social media sites and work portals they access. For journalists, this can mean a lot of sensitive material, including leaked documents, identities of sources and unpublished story drafts.
Bill Budington a security engineer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group dedicated to digital privacy, points to the particularly risky situation of crossing a border and recommends a series of products and measures journalists and others can adopt to keep files safe in the most at-risk circumstances.
His first tip: When most under threat, ditch your primary laptop or smartphone completely. If you have a burner phone or a cheap netbook that doesn’t contain sensitive data, bring this secondary device along instead while traveling.Related articles
But when burner devices aren’t an option, Budington says, “the most powerful thing” a person can do to keep devices safe at a border-crossing is to make sure the hard drive is fully encrypted beforehand – helping to ensure that only those with the device’s passphrase will be able to access its files. This step is also among the easiest – for Mac iOS and some Windows users, it can be as simple as clicking a few buttons to activate built-in encryption programs.
Even with an encrypted hard drive, hackers can attempt to “brute-force” a password, potentially gaining access to the encrypted data. (In many jurisdictions, courts and law enforcement agencies can try to compel you to turn over your password under threat of punishment, including incarceration.) An open-source program called VeraCrypt can add an additional layer of encryption, so that, even if hackers get access to your hard drive, they then must enter what amounts to a highly-fortified folder to gain access to your most sensitive information.
Yet even the most highly secured hard drive will provide little help in protecting your data when you inevitably need to transfer a sensitive document to someone else via the internet. Some of the most prominent file-sharing programs, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, do not provide what Budington calls “client-side” encryption by default.
“For cloud storage, the most important feature for secure storage is for the program you’re using to encrypt files locally on your own machine before they are uploaded to the cloud servers,” Budington told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). There are some services that provide local encryption prior to upload – Budington recommends SpiderOak, the Keybase filesystem, tresorit and Jungle Disk.
You can learn more about device security and document storage by watching a security talk Budington gave in December.3. Password managers
As hackers become more sophisticated, maintaining strong and up-to-date passwords that aren’t reused across different services is a must. But for reporters who use numerous online services and databases, this can become burdensome: Memorizing a series of complex and ever-changing passwords isn’t feasible and storing them in your computer or email makes them prone to fall into the hands of hackers.
Chris Walker, Digital Security Advisor at the Tactical Technology Collective, a cyber security initiative based in Berlin, recommends solving this problem with an encrypted password manager, which can both generate and store your passwords for you.
“Writing down your passwords and keeping them all in one place might not sound like a good idea at first,” Walker says, but he assures that with the right password manager, users will be more secure with fewer hassles. These apps can both generate stronger passwords and remember them for you.KeyPass is just one Password manager available. i KeyPass
Walker recommends one tool in particular: KeePassXC, a system he describes as highly secure. “It is well maintained, free and open-source software that relies on well understood, standards-based encryption to protect your passwords,” Walker says. “It is also quite simple. It does not try to store your data online or sync between multiple devices. This simplicity helps protect KeePassXC from many potential avenues of attack.”
But Walker is quick to point out that even the most well-managed passwords must be used, when possible, alongside two-factor authentication – an extra layer of security that most often requires users to enter a temporary code that is only accessible from a personal device, usually a cell phone, in addition to their passwords . The idea is that, even if hackers have cracked your password, they still must somehow get their hands on a physical device that only you carry.
This is a basic step that should be used whenever you need to log in to an online service – including email portals, Twitter, Facebook, bank accounts and wherever else you use passwords to protect and to prevent hackers obtaining sensitive information.
One problem with this: The text messages containing these codes can be intercepted. This year may also see a growing adoption of a new sort of two-factor authentication that security engineers believe may be safer than receiving a code on your iPhone: Google is now offering to provide people at high risk of surveillance a program that requires users deploy two physical authenticator keys as a final step for unlocking an account. The devices can fit on a keychain and use USB or bluetooth technology to communicate with your computer and smartphone.Google’s two factor authentication requires an extra login step. i Google
Runa Sandvik, the senior director of information security at The New York Times, is a fan of Google’s new initiative, known as the Advanced Protection Program. “I think the Advanced Protection Program (APP) is a great option for at-risk users,” Sandvik told ICIJ. “I have, personally, used APP for a few months and see no reason not to turn it on.”
For more information on Google’s APP and its physical security key, the New York Times has a good article on it and you can also visit the Google’s website. (Unfortunately, this feature isn’t free – each key costs about $20.)5. Slack alternatives for your office
Over the past several years, new technology known widely by the brand-named Slack has pervaded American office culture. It’s part chat, part email, highly distracting and can archive everything you say and all the documents you upload. Slack has been criticized for its lack of full encryption, and, last year, a web security researcher discovered that a vulnerability in Slack’s code would allow hackers to gain access to millions of users’ private conversations – a particularly sensitive potential exposure for some, given that Slack’s private channels are infamous for encouraging fierce workplace gossip.
Slack does not offer end-to-end encryption, so the contents of your communications may be retrievable if the firm receives an order from, say, an intelligence agency or law enforcement office. Martin Shelton, a data security researcher who works with at-risk groups, says that, although Slack may be the most user-friendly service of its kind, organizations seeking a higher level of security have other options. Semaphor, designed by the tech security firm SpiderOak, is a prominent alternative to Slack. Shelton recommends it as a “nice choice for an end-to-end encrypted chat,” but notes that its “user experience is a little clunky.”
Shelton also points to Mattermost, another potentially appealing chat application for organizations on perhaps the more established side. Like Signal, Mattermost’s code is open source, meaning that anyone can inspect its architecture for vulnerabilities.
“This is great, because it’s regularly audited by security researchers,” Shelton says. “You can also host it on your own server, so you know where your data is located.” Shelton notes that this last feature can, however, mean a bit more work. “News institutions will need administrators who know what they’re doing to maintain the server,” Shelton says.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation reminds us, good data security is a process, not just a series of products. The tools above only offer a start. Some commonly used digital security products that didn’t make the list also include email encryption – which can be a pain to set up but can ensure your encrypted emails are all but impenetrable – as well as secure and private web browsing with Tor and DuckDuckGo.
For more tools and a more detailed explanation of how to use them, take a look at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense project and the Citizen Lab’s SecurityPlanner.org. Threats to journalists may be building, but, luckily, so are our defenses against them.
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ICIJ collaborates with journalists all around the world to break stories such as the Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, Evicted and Abandoned, Fatal Extraction and more. This is the first article in a series that goes behind the scenes of the investigative reporting and explores some of the challenges faced by these journalists.
Media outlets across the world are struggling to break even as traditional sources of revenue fade away, but in some countries, such as Poland, it’s even tougher because of government attempts to control the media. Over the past two years the Polish government, led by the conservative Law and Justice party, has tightened its grip on the press.
“When it comes to the freedom of the press, it has worsened significantly,” said Vadim Makarenko, ICIJ partner at Gazeta Wyborcza. Poland lost 7 points this year on World Press Freedom Index, and is now ranked 54.Gazeta Wyborcza reporter Vadim Makarenko.
The government is playing a larger role in public news outlets and trying to destabilize independent print media outlets, such as Gazeta Wyborcza and others. Since taking control, the Law and Justice party has ordered all state owned enterprises to cancel their advertising commitments and state agencies to cancel subscriptions. Copies of independent publications have become harder to find in news stands at service stations controlled by the state-run energy company.
ICIJ partners also assert accessing government officials has grown increasingly difficult.
“They refused to comment when our reporters call them,” said Makarenko.
“Directly, neither me or my colleagues are being affected by the government. Indirectly, the pressure is huge. When they undermine our revenue, that means more work, more revenue-focused work for editors.”Normal debate has gone to a point where you can’t assess the government policy because there is too much noise around it from both sides. Vadim Makarenko
With revenue decreasing sharply, – in 2016 Gazeta Wyborcza had to lay off 190 staff members – political pressure is worsening an environment where investigative journalism is already discouraged due to perceived high costs and low returns.
“We are more responsible for revenues than ever before today. All of our projects are revenue-focused,” explained Makarenko. “We have to focus on grants, looking for investors.”
The ruling party also has discouraged foreign investment in journalism in Poland. In addition, the polarized media scene has created an environment where investigative fact-based journalism is hard to ascertain.
“Normal debate has gone to a point where you can’t assess the government policy because there is too much noise around it from both sides,” said Makarenko.
“It’s increasingly difficult to get to the facts. Almost nobody is doing it. To be in the media today it’s like being in a club….The line between emotion and information is blurred.”
Government control is particularly reinforced for publicly owned media outlets. A media law passed in 2015 gave the government control over public broadcasting. “The government is micro-managing public media,” explains Makarenko.Related articles
Privately owned media are not spared. Last month, Poland’s media regulator fined a commercial TV station, TVN24, for covering protests at the national parliament. The official explanation for the fine was that, by broadcasting the protest, the TV station “promot[ed] illegal activities and encourag[ed] behaviour that threatens security.”
“This is the first time ever a Polish channel is fined for live broadcasting,” said Makarenko.“We see it as a crackdown on the media because you don’t control what happens when you broadcast live.”
A year ago, Reporters Without Borders issued a call to the EU to impose sanctions on Poland in response to repeated violations of media freedom.
“Ultimately, they are trying to restrict the flow of critical opinions or information by locking down the very institutions democratic countries put in place to act as checks and balances on the government and to protect the people,” explained Lydia Gall, Human Rights Watch’s European researcher in an interview last October.
“If it keeps going this way, we could have a situation where the government is in full control, where no critical voices would be allowed. That is the worst-case scenario for Poland’s future.”
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This is the final of a three-part series on ways to search our Offshore Leaks Database that now includes more than 680,000 entities from 55 secrecy jurisdictions. The first installment was How to search the Offshore Leaks Database by location. The second looked at the networks and metadata in the database.
The Offshore Leaks Database is a starting point for investigating activities offshore. ICIJ has published data on more than 680,000 entities as well as 600,000 directors and shareholders. More data will be added in the coming weeks. (Sign-up to make sure you’re the first to know!) Yet, in order to to investigate comprehensively you might need to do research outside the database.
ICIJ partners often run matches on the data in order to find interesting leads. For example, crossing a list of EU current and former commissioners with the Bahamas Leaks data led us to the undisclosed Bahamian company of the EU’s former commissioner for competition policy, Neelie Kroes.Former EU commissioner Neelie Kroes i Photo: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert 1. Download and reference the data
One way to search further is to download the data from the database, then cross reference it with other lists such as the Forbes 500 list or a list of elected officials, using tools such Open Refine or Excel’s Fuzzy Lookup add-on (available only for the Microsoft version of Excel).
This will show you which names appear in both the list you selected and the Offshore Leaks Database. Those tools also compare series of characters to find names that are similar but not exactly the same. It would identify as similar “John Doe,” “John R. Doe” and “Doe, John” for example, a handy feature given names can sometimes be written differently or be misspelled.
This will show you which names appear in both the list you selected and the Offshore Leaks Database. Those tools also compare series of characters to find names that are similar but not exactly the same. It would identify as similar “John Doe,” “John R. Doe” and “Doe, John” for example, a handy feature given names can sometimes be written differently or be misspelled.Related articles 2. Check for false positives
There could, of course, lead to false positives, meaning an individual or company with the same name but that is not, after verification, the same company or person. The more common the name – Maria Rivera for example – the more likely it is that the director or shareholder you have spotted is not the person you were looking for.
In order to check those results you can go back to the Offshore Leaks database and search for that name. That way, you will find other companies that person is connected to and also expand the nodes connected to those companies by double clicking on them.By clicking on this orange “node” you are able to see all of the connections a person has in the data.
Are the other shareholders and directors family members? Can we link them to the person we are searching for using external sources such as news articles or corporate websites?3. Get more information from company registries
You might also want to use company registries to buy information. The Aruba, Bahamas or Malta registries for example allow you to download basic documentation on companies such as incorporation forms or notices from the registries for a fee. Those documents might give you information that is not available in the Offshore Leaks database, which only makes structured data available.
Here is a summary of what you can get from a few online corporate registries:
Happy searching! As always, don’t forget to tell us what you find in the data.
And don’t forget, ICIJ believes this data should be publicly-available, and we need your support to keep it that way.
Make a donation and help us keep it free, online and accessible.
The post How to investigate companies found in the Offshore Leaks Database appeared first on ICIJ.
Last week Apple said it would bring hundreds of billions of dollars in offshore cash – largely profits recorded outside of America, accumulated over the past 12 years – back to the United States, where the company would pay a record-breaking $38 billion in tax as a result.
Explaining the move, chief executive Tim Cook said that he had a “deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make [Apple’s] success possible.”Apple’s media statement from January 18.
But how good a corporate citizen is Apple really being? And does this arrangement represent good value for ordinary Americans? Let’s look a bit closer at the context.
Apple’s big move comes as the ink dries on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed by President Donald Trump last month. This legislation contains sweeping changes, the ramifications of which are set to reverberate around the world this year and into the future.
For now, though, we’re interested in just one aspect of the new law: a crackdown on stockpiles of foreign profits, made by U.S. multinationals but parked in offshore subsidiary companies in order to avoid U.S. tax.
For years, multinationals’ foreign profits – profits that would have be taxed at 35 percent if they were brought home to the United States (subject to an adjustment for any foreign taxes already incurred) – were instead stashed abroad. By storing up these earnings in foreign subsidiaries, multinationals have been able to defer U.S. taxes due on such profits.
And, as American multinationals also grew increasingly adept at avoiding taxes in overseas markets, the benefits of parking profits outside America – thus avoiding U.S. taxes – produced even larger savings.
In the end, many big corporations were achieving astonishingly low worldwide tax rates and amassing mountains of cash offshore. Some estimates suggest as much as $2.8 trillion has been locked in this offshore limbo. And no multinational has been better at the avoidance game than Apple.
At last count, the iPhone-maker held offshore cash reserves of $252 billion – equivalent to more than a quarter of its nearly $1 trillion market capitalization.
Under normal circumstances, these surplus profits would have been repatriated to the United States and returned to shareholders in stock buybacks and dividends. But such an option has not been available to Apple – at least, not without an accompanying tax bill of close to 35 percent.Related articles
Wall Street analysts have for years described the iPhone-maker’s offshore cash as “trapped”.
While the conundrum of what to do with these earnings was a nice dilemma to have, it has nevertheless thrown a spotlight on how dysfunctional U.S. tax rules have become.
To the outside world, it is baffling that American tax authorities allow Apple to claim the majority of its profits are generated outside the United States and that such earnings can therefore be perpetually held beyond the reach of the Internal Revenue Service.
Surely, almost all the value in Apple is created in Cupertino, California. It makes no sense for the majority of profits not to be recorded there too.
Last fall, as they drew up the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill, Republicans in Congress were determined to repatriate the mountains of cash that corporate America’s top tax avoiders had amassed.
And doing so was simple. The new legislation would simply extend the reach of U.S. tax authorities, giving them taxing rights over past years’ foreign profits on which multinationals had, up to now, been able to claim tax deferrals.A discounted tax rate for repatriated profits
But the lawmakers did not stop there. Republicans decided that multinationals should not be forced to dismantle offshore cash reserves without recompense. There was to be a special, discounted tax rate for repatriated profits.
Why is far from clear. As many eminent tax practitioners and academics have pointed out, a reduced rate effectively rewards years of aggressive tax avoidance.
But the perceived need to offer America’s largest and most profitable companies a retroactive saving on their tax liabilities was built on two ideas that seemed to go unchallenged.
The first was that without the incentive of a discounted tax rate, powerful multinationals could never be persuaded to bring their offshore cash back. The second was that taxing the tsunami of repatriated earnings at a reduced rate would create more U.S. jobs.
Here is how Apple chief executive Tim Cook put it in 2013, when he testified before a U.S. Senate committee:
Apple has been pressing Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill for a “reasonable” repatriation tax rate for some years.
And, as decision time approached in 2017, the iPhone-maker raised the amount it was spending on U.S. lobbying.Source: U.S. Senate
In the fall of 2017, as Republicans got down to the nitty gritty details of the bill, they had to decide what “reasonable” meant. In October, Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn – one of the so-called “Big Six” figures in Washington charged with thrashing out a legislative proposal – told Fox News the rate would be in the “10 percent range”.
By early November, bills emerged from the House and Senate proposing a repatriation tax rate of 12 percent and 10 percent respectively.
But as these figures began circulating, Republicans found they faced two problems. First, some of their congressional allies were growing uneasy about the impact of mega giveaways in the bill would likely have on the government’s borrowing.
Some projections suggested tax breaks in the bill were so generous that no resulting boost to the economy could ever hope to generate enough extra tax receipts to fill the hole left behind in government income – especially in the first few years.
The second issue for lawmakers was that polls showed that the wider public – including many blue-collar workers, core to Trump’s base — simply didn’t believe that tax giveaways to big corporations would end up benefiting them.Paradise Papers expose Apple’s island hop
It was against this backdrop that the ICIJ and its media partners published a detailed investigation into the tax affairs of Apple based on information contained in a cache of millions of confidential documents known as the Paradise Papers.
The investigation, a version of which was also published prominently in the New York Times, exposed how Apple had secretly reconfigured a cluster of Irish subsidiaries in 2015 – with the help of the tax haven Jersey – to unlock huge tax breaks for the iPhone-maker’s non-U.S. business.
Since these new arrangements had been put in place, the ICIJ research found, Apple’s offshore cash pile had almost doubled to $252 billion.Source: SEC Filings.
Later the same month, the tone of the Republican tax reform debate around multinationals changed. As the bills progressed through Congress, both the House and Senate hiked their proposals for the repatriation tax rate until it was eventually signed into law at 15.5 percent. This was still a major tax giveaway but a rate more than 50 percent above that proposed by Republican lawmakers months earlier.
Had the rate been set at that 10 percent rate, the repatriation tax owed that Apple announced last week would have been around $25 billion, not the $38 billion announced – a difference of $13 billion.
While some in Cupertino may feel Apple missed out on the big reward for returning its profits, investors remain delighted. In fact, the company’s stock is up by almost two-thirds since Trump won the White House.
In the end, the repatriation tax charge – for so long an uncertainty hanging over Apple stock – looks so neat it could have been scripted by Cook himself. In fact, the company’s latest balance sheet shows the iPhone-maker has already built up $36 billion in accounting provisions for tax it had expected to have to pay on its foreign earnings.
As a result, the eventual payment of Apple’s record-breaking repatriation tax bill will hardly impact the company’s 2018 earnings per share performance.
It remains to be seen, however, what Apple does with its repatriated cash. Last week, Cook was talking loudly about a huge program of investment and thousands of new U.S. jobs. And this was a message that clearly delighted the president:
I promised that my policies would allow companies like Apple to bring massive amounts of money back to the United States. Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS. Huge win for American workers and the USA! https://t.co/OwXVUyLOb1
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2018
This is the “jobs” half of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. But is Apple’s announcement as exciting as it sounds?
While Apple will, of course, continue to invest in jobs, research and innovation, it seems unlikely that Cook – however grateful he must be for outcome tax reform – will bow to some of Trump’s more outlandish job-creation demands.
In the heat of his election campaign, the president had promised on Twitter “We’re going to get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries”.
Wall Street is likely to have other ideas. Cook would likely face a shareholder revolt if the vast majority of repatriated cash is not promptly returned to investors through share buybacks and dividends.
The post Apple claims to be a good corporate citizen, but is it really? appeared first on ICIJ.
Documents and data surround our lives and are key in journalism, often forming the backbone of major journalistic investigations. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists knows this well, having published exposés based on some of the largest leaks in journalism history, the Panama and Paradise Papers, which consisted of a total of 25 million files. What happens to documents after the reporting is done is one of the keys to democracy, according to ICIJ member and former head of the ICIJ Data & Research Unit Mar Cabra.
Speaking at TEDx San Francisco last October, Cabra shared the astonishing fact that the Panama Papers data was still being used to break news stories one year and a half after the investigation was first published. During the initial investigation, ICIJ shared the files with almost 400 journalists as part of an unprecedented collaboration. Afterwards, ICIJ gave the data a second life by putting the names of people connected to offshore companies in a searchable database, which has now been used by more than 11 million people worldwide.
Watch her full talk or read the transcript below to learn why Cabra thinks that journalists need to archive documents and share them so they can connect the dots between stories and make sense of the future.Transcript
Mar Cabra, TEDx San Francisco, October 2017
Who doesn’t have stacks of paper in their house? I do. I tell myself that I can find my way in my own mess and that if I need any of those papers, I will just go and find them. If I don’t need them, then it means they’re not important. But how do I know they aren’t important if I don’t know what’s in each of them, word by word?
I’m a journalist and as part of my job I also gather stacks of paper from public sources or from whistleblowers. My colleagues do the same. These are some of the messiest journalist desks I could find. Florida, New York, Japan. Paper is all around journalists.
Some reporters are organized though, like this colleague from Argentina. But even if he is organized, when he’s done with a story, he moves on to the next one. And then, does he recall what’s in those papers, word by word? Probably not.
Even in the digital world we live in today, where most of the documents we deal with are electronic, when we run out of storage in our computer what we normally do is we dump the documents in a backup drive… and that’s basically the digital equivalent to the stacks of paper.
To make sense of the future and connect the dots, journalists need to archive their documents and share them. And we’re not doing it.
We normally think of archives as places where we store public records and historical materials. The files are cataloged and stored in a way that makes it very easy to search them later, maybe decades later. Newspapers are normally archived. Let’s think in the same way about the documents we collect when reporting the articles that end up in those newspapers. Let’s create archives of those files, so we can retrieve the knowledge later.Related articles
The need to do this is much greater in the Big Data era, where the number of documents and data that journalists are collecting is growing at a very fast pace.
In the famous Pentagon Papers, back in the late 60s, the whistleblower had to make photocopies of the 7,000-page report on the Vietnam war before giving it to the journalists. In the Watergate scandal, in the early 70s, the Washington Post reporters had to physically meet with Deep Throat, the source, in a parking garage to preserve his anonymity.
In the digital age, anybody can leak to a journalist from anywhere in the world without ever meeting in person. One of the first times when we realized the potential of this was in an investigation called Cablegate. It happened in 2010. It was done by Wikileaks, which partnered with several media organizations including the New York Times to investigate a document dump of documents that exposed the inner dealings of the US diplomatic service.
But the scale of things blew up last year, in the latest investigation I worked in, the Panama Papers. It was a leak of 2.6 terabytes, which amounted to 11.5 million files. At the time, it was the biggest leak in journalism history. It all started with a message from an anonymous source to my colleague Bastian Obermayer in Germany. And the message said: “Hello, interested in data?”
These big document leaks are not just affecting investigative journalism, where we have the time and the resources to slowly look into the documents. In the current political environment we’re seeing a record number of leaks and document dumps. It’s affecting our daily routines.
Add to that all the public records we collect, the public databases, freedom of information requests, social media data… What concerns me is that we haven’t yet found a way to deal with such a big and overwhelming amount of information. This is a recipe for disaster.
The good news – I have good news! – is that I think we’re in time to prevent this disaster from happening. Journalism through, doesn’t have nearly as much money as other industries, which are facing the same issues, such as big corporations, governments or criminals. So we need to think outside of the box, if we want to keep being the watchdogs of democracy.
When my colleague Bastian received the Panama Papers data, he didn’t keep it to himself, as most journalists would’ve done. He and his newspaper in Germany saw the universe of data they were dealing with was too big and complex for them to handle, so they decided to share it with the nonprofit organization I worked with at the time, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
We saw connections in this data to more than 200 countries. So – in a radical move – we shared all the files with almost 400 journalists in about 80 countries. My team of engineers made all these files searchable in a secure website that could be accessed from anywhere in the world at any point in time. The files exposed the offshore system like never before. They revealed a parallel economy that is being used by the rich and powerful for purposes like evading taxes. There were celebrities, billionaires, politicians and of course, criminals in the leak. They were all using the same law firm with headquarters in Panama.
Sharing is not the natural step for a journalist. When we collect documents or get leaks, these allow us to have scoops in our newspapers and have exclusive stories in the front page. So it gives us an added value inside our organizations, added value as a journalist… it’s our intellectual property, exactly what you don’t want to share with your competitors.
But sharing was the only way for us to deal with such a big amount of information. Of course, when you share with so many people, there is one risk: that somebody reveals the secret ahead of time. We used technology to keep us in touch regularly and we had our own social networking platform. So technology helped, but in the end, it was all about human trust and we had to take a leap of faith. And you know what? It worked and we kept the secret for a year. The impact was unprecedented.
The reporters behind the Panama Papers published more than 4,700 stories. The prime minister of Iceland resigned and the prime minister of Pakistan was ousted from office. There were police raids and arrests around the world. Less than a year after the publication of the Panama Papers, we accounted for at least 150 investigations in 79 countries. We got the Pulitzer prize, the highest recognition in journalism. And sharing made all this possible. One journalist could not have achieved all this alone. Maybe it’s time we reframe how we look at sharing.
We didn’t just want to share with journalists. We wanted to give the investigative power to the people. But for source protection and privacy issues, we couldn’t just dump all the documents in the internet, so we created a searchable database with the hundreds of thousands of the names of companies in tax havens and the people behind them. This database has been used by millions of people and is regularly being visited by academics, NGOs and tax agencies. By connecting their data to ours, they’re finding new leads to start new investigations.
For example, Europol, which is Europe’s law enforcement agency, found more than 3,000 probable matches to organized crime and tax fraud. Out of those, 116 were connected to their program on Islamic terrorism.
Traditionally in journalism, stories finish the day you publish them, maybe a few days or weeks later. Corruption never stops but sometimes our reporting does. It’s been one year and a half since we started publishing the Panama Papers and we’re still not done with the investigation. At this point, I don’t know if we’ll ever be. People keep finding new leads in the data, because by sharing the files with the journalists and the world, we gave a second life to these documents.
As I see all these new stories unfold, I just can’t stop thinking about all the other leaks that we have had access to in journalism. I’m sure we’ve missed many connections to other stories and to corruption cases because these files were not archived and shared. We didn’t exploit the real value of these documents, so we didn’t get our true return on investment.
There was one question that kept popping in my head over and over when I was the head of data & technology at the ICIJ and it still haunts me now that I’m a consultant: how can we ensure the documents of our investigations live forever, so they can be used to expose corruption for decades?
I think this is one of the major issues that journalism should be dealing with right now. We should be thinking long and hard about how we archive what we have, what we share and with whom. And we should do it in a regular basis, as part of our daily routines, not just in unique investigations like the Panama Papers. This is very important for us not to miss any stories in the future. Our democracy depends on this.
This post was co-published with Source
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ICIJ is proud to recognize funders who make our investigative journalism possible. Today, we’re highlighting two of these foundations – the Swedish Postcode Foundation and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation – that recently became part of the ICIJ community of supporters for the first time.
The Swedish Postcode Foundation will support important upgrades and improvements to ICIJ’s technology and tools, which are critical resources that drive our investigative reporting and encourage global collaboration.
In particular, it will support the Knowledge Center – a combination of data sets and documents that serves as an ongoing source of information and story leads for our network. It will merge leaked data obtained by ICIJ with publicly available data from around the world into an online searchable database.
The Knowledge Center will become an ongoing resource for journalists who can use this data to tell important, untold stories and hold the powerful accountable.
“In a world characterized by complexity and increased globalization, truth is more important today than ever before,” said Marie Dahllöf, Secretary General of the Swedish Postcode Foundation.Related articles
“Investigative journalism plays an important role in exposing abuses of power and structural inequalities. Facilitating collaborations between journalists helps increase the quantity and quality of investigative journalism worldwide. We are therefore proud to support ICIJ’s project, which creates a collective international platform for investigative journalists.”
ICIJ also received a first-time grant from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. The foundation supports organizations that advance social justice by promoting world-changing work in investigative journalism, the arts, environment, education, equity and inclusion, and documentary film.
This grant will support ICIJ’s core operations, helping us expand our capacity to produce even more groundbreaking investigative journalism.
“The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation is proud to support ICIJ’s award-winning and innovative investigative reporting,” said Jonathan Logan, the foundation’s founder and CEO.
“With the Panama and Paradise Papers, the ICIJ has shown in new and innovative ways how rigorous, fact-based reporting can hold the powerful accountable, and also what teamwork and impact look like. We share the ICIJ’s core values, and its commitment to groundbreaking investigative journalism.”
As a nonprofit organization, we rely on supporters who believe in the power of investigative journalism. All gifts to ICIJ – no matter the amount – make a difference. If you’d like to learn about how you can contribute, read more here.
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This is the second part of a three-part series on ways to search our Offshore Leaks Database that now includes more than 680,000 entities from 55 secrecy jurisdictions. The first installment was How to search the Offshore Leaks Database by location.
The Offshore Leaks database displays networks of entities and individuals that can be challenging to navigate. Here are a few tips on how to make sense of those networks and all the information you can get out of the data we have made public.1. Who are the intermediaries?
Offshore transactions involve an individual who had money, an entity that will be used to hide this money but also an intermediary that will oftentimes register that entity in the secrecy jurisdiction. Those intermediaries could be law firms or banks, or other companies.
When you search for any keyword you will be able to access the intermediaries connected to that key word by simply clicking on the “Intermediaries” tab. When you explore an entity you will often find the connected intermediary (look for this icon: ). Double clicking on this icon will enable you to find all the other entities connected to this intermediary. You can also click on the name of the intermediary listed under the graph.
2. Explore big group of companies
The Offshore Leaks data includes conglomerates of companies connected to each other through a mother company often called a group. Those are referenced as “Other” in the data and be found under the tab with the same name.
You can search for example the company “Glencore” and find a link to “Glencore Group” in the “Other” tab. This will display all the entities connected to that commodities giant accused of having abused loopholes to avoid tax.
Extra information on entities can be found when you highlight the different icons or if you scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will find for example dates of incorporation of entities or dates of appointment of officers.
You can also find out the source of the information, meaning the leak from which the data originated. For each leak, you can see how current the data is. For example data from Appleby is up-to-date until 2014 whereas data from the Bahama Leaks is current through early 2016.
The database allows you to filter the search results for each specific leak through a menu on the right. We created a “same as” relationship to enable data from different leaks to be connected. Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s company, Fleg Trading Limited, is present in both the Panama Papers and the Bahamas Leaks, as you can see on the entity page.
Happy searching! As always, don’t forget to tell us what you find in the data.
And don’t forget, ICIJ believes this data should be publicly-available, and we need your support to keep it that way.
Make a donation and help us keep it free, online and accessible.
The post How to explore networks and entity metadata in the Offshore Leaks Database appeared first on ICIJ.
Michael Forsythe is an investigative reporter with The New York Times. He worked on ICIJ’s most recent project, Paradise Papers, and here reflects on what it was like to collaborate across the world.
Last year, the release of the Panama Papers caused a huge sensation across the globe, exposing a hidden world of wealth held offshore. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists brought together hundreds of reporters from around the world to examine the millions of documents that were leaked to two reporters at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. For their work, the I.C.I.J. won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.
The New York Times was not part of that team. Like many reporters here, I spent a lot of time scrambling to make sense of what the ICIJ had uncovered, writing follow-on stories. Breathing fumes.
This year, with the publication of the Paradise Papers — an extensive leak of documents primarily from a Bermudan law firm — we were on the inside. Working under Rebecca Corbett, The Times’s investigations editor, Mike McIntire, Jesse Drucker, Scott Shane and I joined up with close to 400 reporters around the world, spending much of 2017 sifting through some of the more than 13 million files.
It was exciting. But it was also unnerving.
Early on, just as the first documents were becoming searchable through the ICIJ’s sophisticated in-house system, it became apparent just how much we would have to relearn journalistic habits acquired over decades of reporting.
We would have to learn how to share.
By late February, a team of journalists from The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, the ICIJ and other organizations were scouring documents, looking for any connections to the new Trump cabinet, one of several reporting initiatives. But the documents from Appleby — a white-shoe law firm — often led us to water but didn’t let us drink. Tidbits of evidence in the documents frequently had to be supplemented by a lot of outside reporting, some of it building on our own proprietary reporting.Related articles
Jesse, for example, is one of The Times’s lead reporters reporting on the business dealings of Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. He brought a wealth of experience to a team of strangers.
But a big planning meeting at the Süddeutsche Zeitung headquarters in Munich, which Mike McIntire and Jesse attended, helped to alter the chemistry. Competitors became comrades.
Some of the best stories, such as the report about Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr.’s investment in a shipping company with business ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law, came courtesy of our partners. The I.C.I.J. reporter Sasha Chavkin spent months poring through the files to spot that connection.
Looking through millions of documents in search of stories is no easy task, and it led us down plenty of rabbit holes that ended up nowhere. There are 1,615 hits for the keyword “Trump” in the Paradise Papers.
One of the first results is the name of a company: Trump Treasure Limited. It was set up by the family of Vincent Lo, a tycoon who was part of a group of Hong Kong billionaires who invested in one of Mr. Trump’s properties in New York, helping to rescue him from the verge of bankruptcy. The Hong Kong businessmen sold the property for $1.76 billion in 2005, prompting a $1 billion lawsuit from Mr. Trump, who said he could have sold it for more.
Two years later, with the lawsuit continuing, “Trump Treasure Limited” was formed.
Was it some vehicle to compensate Mr. Trump? It held a huge mortgage in Hong Kong and was owned by a shell company in the British Virgin Islands. But no ICIJ leak unmasked the owners of that offshore entity. Could it be Mr. Trump himself?
The reality was much less than met the eye. In Beijing, the Times reporter Keith Bradsher asked Mr. Lo about the company, and he expressed a level of surprise and puzzlement that appeared genuine. Some more digging and the prosaic truth emerged: The name was randomly chosen from a list of shell company names and was used to invest in Hong Kong real estate.
But dead ends are par for the course in investigative journalism. And amid all the billing statements, spreadsheets and mind-numbing prospectuses, some big stories emerged. The Times and its new partners will publish them throughout the week.
This article was first published on The New York Times.
The post Stories of collaboration: Scouring the Paradise Papers, with the help of almost 400 new friends appeared first on ICIJ.
Over the next three weeks, ICIJ will bring you three articles on ways to search our Offshore Leaks Database that now includes more than 680,000 entities from 55 secrecy jurisdictions.
For the past several years, ICIJ has updated the Offshore Leaks Database with data from different leaks of information on offshore companies, as well as corporate registries from several secrecy jurisdictions, most recently in the Caribbean. The full dataset is searchable and available for download.
One way to explore the more than 680,000 entities is to use the jurisdictions and countries associated to these companies and their officers.1. Find out who is connected to your country
One place to start is by searching for directors and shareholders of offshore companies who are connected to your country.
To do that, simply select a country in the right-hand menu and hit “Search.” (Circled in the image here.)
There result page will list all entities, addresses and officers connected to this specific country. You can then explore each of those by clicking on highlighted results, which will take you to a visualization detailing the connection between an entity, its address and its shareholders or directors.
2. Focus on a specific tax haven
Another option is to focus on a specific jurisdiction. Let’s say you are doing research on Malta, a tiny island the EU that was used by the Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira to transfer more than $30 million of music rights, according to Spanish paper El Confidencial.
First, select “Search by jurisdiction”.
Then select “Malta” from the dropdown box on the right (the jurisdictions are ordered alphabetically), you will see listed the 52 entities in our data that were incorporated on the island.
3. Research addresses you found in other documents
Finally, contrary to a lot of corporate registries, the Offshore Leaks Database is searchable by addresses. This means that you could search for an interesting address you have found in your research and find out who used it to register an offshore company.
Type the address in the search bar and hit search.
Then, select the “Addresses” tab in the search results.
Happy searching! As always, don’t forget to tell us what you find in the data.
And don’t forget, ICIJ believes this data should be publicly-available, and we need your support to keep it that way.
Make a donation and help us keep it free, online and accessible.
The post How to search the Offshore Leaks Database by location appeared first on ICIJ.
At the Golden Globes ceremony tonight, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced two grants of $1 million each to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Committee To Protect Journalists.
The grants, coming less than eight weeks after the groundbreaking Paradise Papers investigation by ICIJ, will go toward supporting investigative journalism and providing better protection for journalists.
The Paradise Papers was the latest in a series of global journalistic exposes of the offshore financial industry that have triggered reforms and investigations by governments around the world – from the United States to Vietnam to New Zealand.Related articles
“There’s never been a more important time to safeguard the truth by supporting investigative journalism,” said ICIJ director Gerard Ryle. “We are extremely grateful to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for its great expression of support for the ICIJ and for the important work being done by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Truth is under attack, both politically and economically, and the brutal reality of recent years is that journalists routinely risk their lives just for doing their jobs, even in countries once thought safe.
“One of the main aims of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is to bring accountability on a global scale. We bring journalists together to safeguard the truth and to safeguard each other. Along the way, we bring a new kind of scrutiny to world events and complex problems – using data and document-supported facts that cannot easily be dismissed.
“By joining giant teams of journalists and news organizations from all over the world to work together on issues of global significance, we are able to achieve results and impact that no one outlet could achieve independently. “
This is the first time a donation announcement has been made during a live telecast of the event.
“We HFPA journalists are committed to supporting humanitarian organizations, film restoration, and film education,” said HFPA president Meher Tatna. “To date, we have granted over $30 million to those causes. And being an association of journalists, we are keenly aware of its importance, especially today.”
The ICIJ said it will use the very generous grant from the HFPA towards the purchase of a permanent headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Based in Washington, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of more than 200 investigative journalists and 100 media organizations in 70 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories. In 2017, the ICIJ, with media partners McClatchy and the Miami Herald, were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the “Panama Papers” series exposing the hidden infrastructure and global scale of offshore tax havens. Founded in 1997 by the respected American journalist Chuck Lewis, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity to focus on issues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power. In February 2017, ICIJ was spun off as a fully independent news organization with the goal of further extending its global reach and impact. In July 2017, ICIJ was granted its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from U.S. tax authorities.
- ICIJ headquarters (Washington, D.C.)
- ICIJ director Gerard Ryle (Sydney, Australia) +61 417 121 347
- ICIJ online editor Hamish Boland Rudder (Sydney, Australia) +61 451 504 221
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But what is ICIJ, and what do we do? Here are five important facts about ICIJ. And a couple of answers to questions we get asked a lot!ICIJ is a small, but ambitious team
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist, or ICIJ, is a nonprofit news organization focused on bringing accountability on a global scale. We are headquartered in Washington, D.C. Our small team works with a network of more than 200 journalists and 100 media organizations across the the globe.We work with hundreds of journalists worldwide
The journalists that ICIJ works with are either employed by ICIJ or they work for media partners elsewhere (such as the New York Times in the United States, The Guardian in the United Kingdom or Le Monde in France).
We collaborate with these journalists and create tools, and systems, to help them work together on global projects.
Want to know if we have partners in your country?
ICIJ works on global projects and stories that don’t stop at borders. Stories that one news organization, in one country, couldn’t do the same way. We write about internationally important issues including corruption, kleptocracy and the accountability of power.We published the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers
ICIJ is best known for the Panama Papers, the largest leak of data to journalists in history, which exposed a system that enabled tax evasion, money laundering and other wrongdoing, using secretive offshore companies. It revealed the financial dealings of politicians and public officials around the world.There’s never been a more important time to safeguard the truth by supporting investigative journalism. Gerard Ryle, ICIJ director
Our latest project was Paradise Papers – a follow up to the Panama Papers that revealed offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, and 13 advisers, major donors and members of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s administration. It was another massive leak that contained 13.4 million files.We’re funded by donations
ICIJ is a nonprofit organization. We’re funded completely by donations – big and small – so without help from donors like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (big) and the $20, $100, $3,000 and larger checks we receive each week from individuals these stories would go untold.
We’re so grateful for the support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – and all our other donors. We did not solicit the donation from the organization and were surprised and grateful when a representative notified us of their decision in in late December 2017.Those questions: enquiring readers want to know
I’m a journalist – can I join?
Membership is by invitation only, but we’re always on the lookout for talented reporters to add to the network. If you’re an investigative journalist with a strong portfolio and an interest in international collaborations, email email@example.com.
I’d like to support ICIJ – but I don’t have $1 million!
ICIJ accepts donations of all sizes, and every donation makes a difference to the work we do. There are many ways to donate including:
- Via PayPal
- Using our online donation form
- Via our Facebook page
- Via email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call (202) 800-0160 to donate directly over the phone.
- Or mail a check to:
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
910 17th St. NW Suite 410
Washington, DC 20006
The post Five reasons ICIJ isn’t an ordinary news organization appeared first on ICIJ.
The support of ICIJ donors will help make us stronger, and more powerful in 2018.
On Giving Tuesday, November 28 last year, ICIJ announced a goal to raise at least $100,000 before the end of 2017.
While we weren’t sure what response we’d get, we knew there was a significant amount of support and attention because of the release of our latest cross-border investigation the Paradise Papers. We wanted to use that moment to highlight the importance of our journalism and how donations that make that work possible.
We also were grateful to be part of the News Match 2017 campaign. From October 1 to December 31, the funders behind News Match – Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation – committed to matching donations we received, dollar-for-dollar, up to$28,000.
Thanks to your support, we raised more than $190,000 from individual donors since the release of the Paradise Papers in November. That’s in addition to the $28,000 we expect to receive from the News Match campaign.
That’s an incredible testament to the generosity of our global community of readers, followers, and supporters who share our values and believe in our mission.
To all of you, we are so grateful for the support.Related articles
But now, we get back to work.
Here’s what your donations mean for us in 2018: better, stronger, more powerful investigative reporting that changes the world.
Our reporters and editors are pitching ideas, researching leads, and working together right now on our next global investigation.
Our data team is taking stock of our technology and tools, figuring out how we can innovate and improve for future projects. We’re working on ways we can more effectively and efficiently train journalists on security protocols, data analysis, and reporting and research techniques. And, of course, we’re working on releasing more information to our Offshore Leaks Database.
All of this makes for a stronger ICIJ in 2018. And when ICIJ is strong, so is our investigative reporting.
We now know what can happen when a team of global reporters collaborate together on massive investigative stories. We can bring down governments, spark investigations, force public resignations. Together, we generate an incredible amount of impact.
And it’s all thanks to you.
The BBC reporter had one question for Lord Ashcroft as he gingerly approached the conservative party donor at a conference hall in October.
“Did you have tens of millions in an offshore trust that you secretly control, sir?” the reporter asked. “Dear, dear, dear…” started muttering the interviewee.
That’s when the chase began.
For two and a half minutes Lord Ashcroft dodged cameras and questions, walking swiftly through the hall of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, until he entered the men’s room and closed the door behind him. “I’m not going to follow you in there, sir,” the reporter said looking at the camera.
This was just one of the most memorable moments captured on camera during the production of Paradise Papers films that were broadcast across the world starting November 5 this year.
More than a dozen TV crews from South Korea to Florida, U.S., have used every kind of tool of the trade – including undercover cameras and drones – to film mines in Congo that are as vast as lunar craters, businessmen sporting gaudy Bermuda shorts, and countless offices and skyscrapers in financial centers around the world.
They showed the public what was behind the offshore financial industry: not just spreadsheets and data, but the global trade of goods such as 439-foot yachts, Nike shoes, Apple devices, pulp and paper, and more.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT, and others, pointed their cameras at a channel in the Baltic Sea where cargo ships owned by Navigator Holdings were found. The ICIJ found that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, through a web of offshore companies, held a financial stake in Navigator, a firm with business ties to a Russian energy company co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son in law. (Ross recently divested from it, but his chief of staff still retains a stake, according to Forbes.)
Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodity traders, and its business in central Africa was the focus of a documentary by French investigative program Cash Investigation. The film explored the company’s expansion strategy through dozens of offshore subsidiaries and the influence of an Israeli businessman and power broker on its mining operations in Congo.
Television crews including the BBC and Japanese broadcaster NHK closed in on the Isle of Man’s desolated airport where they reported how hundreds of jets are sold every day to wealthy individuals and celebrities – and alleged fraudsters – who can avoid paying consumption tax on their luxury purchase.
A one-hour documentary by German broadcaster ARD zoomed in on the murky world of the online gambling industry. They reported how Gauselmann Group – a leading gaming machines company headed by “the pope of the amusement business,” according to Forbes – exploited legal loopholes and a web of Isle of Man subsidiaries to ride the online gambling boom and circumvent Germany’s gambling laws.
Several television programs investigated the use of sophisticated financial planning schemes by multinational corporations such as Nike and Apple. Finnish broadcaster YLE, for instance, showed their viewers how the profits derived from the sale of a pair of Nike trainers in Helsinki flow to the company’s Dutch subsidiary.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s reporters followed the money behind the ruling liberal party to find one of prime minister’s closest allies having ties to “a multimillion-dollar offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have cost Canadians millions in unpaid taxes.”
In Rome, Italy, representatives of the Legionaries of Christ, the Catholic order founded by a priest (and sexual offender,) sat down with journalists from the investigative TV show Report to talk about their secret offshore dealings in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. “Do you think it’s normal that the Legionaries act as a sort of financial promoters in Luxembourg for investments…?” asked the reporter to a representative of the order in Rome. The priest smiled.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship program Four Corners shed light on a dark page in the country’s music industry. Its investigation raised questions on how the manager of the music band INXS used secret offshore companies to appropriate the estate of Michael Hutchence, the rock star who committed suicide in 1997.
Adding to the list of celebrities found in the Paradise Papers – from U2’s Bono to Madonna, Nicole Kidman and Shakira – Korean investigative center Newstapa also looked at the use of offshore finance by movie star Jang Dong-gun. The actor was reportedly the largest shareholder of a British Virgin Islands entity used to produce “The Warrior’s Way,” a 2010 film co-produced by Korean and U.S. companies. In Hollywood it is a normal practice to establish a shell company in a tax haven every time a film is produced, the movie’s production company’s chief told Newstapa.
But how did more than 380 reporters around the world pull this off? Vice News documentary offers a glimpse into the behind the scene of the investigation. The fly-on-the-wall crew followed ICIJ and some of its partners for nearly nine months from D.C., to Munich, Moscow and London to Bermuda. Along with DR, Univison and other ICIJ partners their final destination was in fact the founding office of Appleby, in Hamilton, where everything started.
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