World hits ICIJ website as Panama Papers database goes live

As it said it was planning to do, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists yesterday made live a database consisting of the names of the thousands of offshore shell companies and individuals who have made use of them that were contained in the so-called Panama Papers documents.

As soon as it did so, news organisations around the world began reporting on the names and numbers of entities and people in their countries and regions who turned up in the database, which may be viewed by clicking here.

Canada’s CBC News, for example, reported today that “at least 625 Canadians” were among those whose details were to be found in the database, and that Canada’s government was “already scouring the leaked files” for tax dodgers, quoting revenue minister Diane Lebouthillier. In India, the Economic Times said a random check of the database for India found “about 22 offshore entities, 1,046 officers or individual links, 42 intermediaries and as many as 828 addresses within the country ranging from the tony and posh locations of metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, to mofussil [rural] locations like that in Haryana’s Sirsa, Bihar’s Muzaffarpur and Madhya Pradesh’s Mandasaur, and state capital Bhopal”.

In the US, meanwhile, NBC News noted that “dozens of Americans” were named in the database, including online gambling impresario Calvin Ayre, who it said was “a fugitive from American justice”.

Altogether, the searchable database is said to contain the confidential details of more than 200,000 offshore accounts.

As reported, the more than eleven million documents that comprise the “Panama Papers” trove were leaked from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, to a German newspaper, which subsequently forwarded them to the ICIJ. It, in turn, released them to some  107 media organisations, including the BBC’s Panorama TV show and the UK’s Guardian newspaper, in 78 countries around the world, which simultaneously began to publish and broadcast material based on the documents in early April.

Last week, the anonymous source who originally leaked the documents to the German newspaper the Suddeutsche Zeitung issued a statement, published on the ICIJ’s website, explaining why he did it. “John Doe”, as he is being called, explained that “income inequality” motivated him to take action, saying that Mossack Fonseca was “more than just a cog in the machine of ‘wealth management'”,  but had used its influence to facilitate the interests of its clients in ways he proceeds to explain.

He also explains why he chose to remain anonymous, citing the examples of such other whistle-blowers as Edward Snowden, Bradley Birkenfeld and Antoine Deltour who didn’t hide their identities.

According to the BBC, Mossack Fonseca issued a “cease and desist” order last week in an effort to prevent the ICIJ from making the database public, but the organisation went ahead yesterday as planned.

Mossack Fonseca, the BBC noted, says it has never been accused or charged with criminal wrongdoing, and claims it has been “the victim of a hack”.

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