An interactive database allowing users to search more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore tax havens including the British Virgin Islands has gone online.
The data, part of a cache of 2.5m leaked files that has already led to a series of exposes of the offshore financial sector by the Guardian and other global media organisations, has been launched by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The ICIJ, a non-profit organisation that has analysed the files with more than 100 journalists in dozens of countries and is continuing to do so, hopes the Offshore Leaks web app will trigger further investigations and revelations by making the information more widely available.
The records have already laid bare a diverse collection of people using offshore hideaways, ranging from US dentists and middle-class Greek villagers to families of despots, Wall Street swindlers, Russian executives, international arms dealers and a company alleged to be a front for Iran’s nuclear development programme.
Fallout from the revelations has led to high-profile political and business resignations, including those of the deputy speaker of the Mongolian parliament and the chief executive of one of Austria’s biggest banks, and sparked official investigations in states including the Philippines, India, Greece and South Korea.
The disclosures have helped to push the issue of tax avoidance up the political agenda. Placing the issue at the centre of the forthcoming G8 summit in Northern Ireland, David Cameron has spoken of wanting the G8 to “knock down the walls of company secrecy” to reveal who really owns and controls firms.
French president François Hollande has also weighed in, calling for the “eradication” of tax havens, days after the ICIJ’s release of dozens of stories based on the secret offshore files. Hollande suffered embarrassment when the records revealed that Jean-Jacques Augier, his election campaign co-treasurer and close friend, had invested in offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands.
The Offshore Leaks app, developed by La Nación newspaper in Costa Rica for the ICIJ, allows users to explore the relationships between clients, offshore entities and the lawyers, accountants, banks and other intermediaries who help keep these arrangements secret.
It displays graphic visualisations of offshore entities and the networks around them including, where possible, the company’s true owners.
“After 17 months of reporting, ICIJ reporters and partners are still digging into this massive trove of financial information,” the ICIJ said.
“The Offshore Leaks database gives ICIJ an opportunity to reach journalists and regular citizens in every corner of the world, particularly in countries most affected by corruption and backroom deals. ICIJ believes many of the best stories may come from crowdsourcing, when readers explore the database.”
Founded in 1997, the ICIJ is a global network of 160 reporters in more than 60 countries. It was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity, a US-based nonprofit investigative journalism organization.