You are hereGawker: Everything You Need to Know (So Far) About the Largest Leak of Offshore Financial Secrets in History

Gawker: Everything You Need to Know (So Far) About the Largest Leak of Offshore Financial Secrets in History

-By Adam Weinstein

April 4, 2013- The Twitterati (and presumably a bevy of bankers) went astir today after a small DC watchdog began systematically leaking millions of financial secrets about offshore companies. Here's why you should care.

What is this "Offshore Leaks" thing everyone's freaking out about?

For 15 months, nearly 100 reporters from outlets around the world have worked together to analyze a trove of 2.5 million documents detailing the identities and activities of 120,000 offshore companies, most of them based in the Caymans and the British Virgin Islands. In terms of sheer data, that's 160 times larger than Wikileaks' cache of US embassy cables.

The project, billed by its organizer as the "likely largest journalism collaboration in history," shines a light on the tactics wealthy individuals and businesses use to avoid taxes, run Ponzi-style schemes, and participate in corrupt government and banking practices. It was all put together by the International Center for Investigative Journalists, a project run by the DC-based nonprofit Center for Public Integrity aimed at "exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con artists, and the mega-rich in more than 170 countries."

I've never understood how offshore tax havens work. Is there a simple breakdown?

Glad you asked. Canada-based CBC News has a great interactive explanation that walks you through the process of sheltering your cash in a variety of tropical environs. Give it a try.

Okay, but where'd these journos get all their info from?

According to the Guardian, one of ICIJ's partner media outlets, the load of docs came into the nonprofit from a variety of sources, including confidential informants. The linchpin for these info-gathering efforts appears to be ICIJ director Gerard Ryle, an Australian investigative reporter who blew the lid off an international fraudster whose umbrella corporation was headquartered in the British Virgin Islands.

So who's publishing what?

In Wikileaks fashion, ICIJ has been sharing links to journos' stories on Twitter with the hashtag #offshoreleaks. Much of what ICIJ's partners have published so far mirrors the exhaustive information on the nonprofit's site.

The Washington Post has yet to roll out its much-anticipated analysis of the offshore info, which will presumably include details on the Americans implicated by the leaked documents. Most of the other partners—CBC in Canada, Guardian in the UK, Spiegel in Germany—have focused on companies and private citizens in their nations who've stashed money in the Caribbean. Here's a map of the open investigations worldwide; it's a safe bet that each media organization will publish more reporting on the documents.



Backbone Campaign
Liberty Tree
Progressive Democrats of America
Peoples Email Network
Justice Through Music
Locust Fork Journal
Berkeley Fellowship UU\'s Social Justice Committee
The Smirking Chimp
Progressive Democrats Sonoma County
Center for Media and Democracy
Chelsea Neighbors United
Atlanta Progressive News
Yes Men
No Nukes North