Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Following the Hidden Money in the #PanamaPapers

A great piece, at LAT, "'My God. We've done this': Meet the reporters who probed the Panama Papers":

When Gerard Ryle saw a photograph of thousands of protesters gathered outside Iceland's Parliament this week, a thought flickered through his mind: "My God. We've done this."

It was true. Iceland's prime minister stepped down from office Tuesday — the most significant fallout so far of the work by journalists collaborating with Ryle's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Over the weekend, hundreds of reporters in more than 70 countries unveiled a nearly yearlong global investigation and began publishing a series of articles on millions of leaked financial documents they dubbed the "Panama Papers," a trove of information bigger than anything WikiLeaks or Edward Snowden ever obtained.

The effect has been like shining a flashlight into a series of dark rooms packed with money and lies. The documents leaked from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca — and examined by journalists at outlets including the Guardian, the BBC and the Miami Herald — have forced global leaders and public figures to answer for the massive amounts of wealth they had hidden in offshore tax havens, outside the scrutiny of auditors and voters.

But the story started small, with an anonymous writer's message to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in early 2015: "Hello. This is John Doe. Interested in data?"

The newspaper was interested, of course. But the source said there were conditions: "My life is in danger. We will only chat over encrypted files. No meeting, ever."

"Why are you doing this?" a journalist at the newspaper asked the source, according to an account published this weekend.

"I want to make these crimes public."

The documents sent to the newspaper stretched back decades and were unwieldy. They included bank records, emails, phone numbers and photocopies of passports held by Mossack Fonseca to track its clients. But there was no road map to show what they all meant.

It was like trying to read an MRI without a doctor.

Seeking help, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reached out to Ryle's consortium, a global network of journalists that had handled document leaks from the HSBC bank and the tiny European nation of Luxembourg.

The network is overseen by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit known for its muckraking journalism in the United States. The two share offices on different floors of the same building...
Keep reading.