Inside Public Integrity

Published — June 6, 2013 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Reform pushed to G-8 meeting agenda after ICIJ’s offshore tax haven investigation


Sometimes great investigative reporting is a game changer — meaning extraordinary journalism can have such significant impact that the issue it illuminates will forever be cast in a different light.

Such is the case with our offshore tax haven project. Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Money Maze by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) continues to reverberate, especially in Europe. Tax havens will be high on the agenda when the G-8 countries sit down for their summit meeting in Ireland in a little more than a week. That’s in part because of ICIJ’s investigative work, which has received more than 11,000 worldwide media citations in just two months.

According to EU Commissioner Algirdas Semeta, the Offshore Leaks investigation by ICIJ and its partners has transformed tax politics and hardened political will to tackle the problem of tax evasion. “I personally think Offshore Leaks could be identified as the most significant trigger behind these developments … It has created visibility of the issue and it has triggered political recognition of the amplitude of the problem”, he told the EU Observer. He added that tax transparency overrides the principle of data privacy.

Likewise, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy says there has been a “real breakthrough” in the EU’s efforts to combat offshore tax evasion. According to Reuters, Rompuy said the current aggressiveness of the EU’s push is “unprecedented. We couldn’t speak in those terms on those issues, let’s say, a month or two months ago. . . . There is a strong political will by the leaders, not only the Europeans but also on a global level, to go forward in attacking tax fraud and tax evasion.”

Again, the difference in political will seems to be that ICIJ’s offshore tax haven stories beginning in early April have engaged the public, and now have galvanized the politicians.

As part of a multi-year project, ICIJ started stripping away the biggest mystery associated with tax havens: the owners of anonymous companies. Drawing from a trove of 2.5 million leaked files, ICIJ led what may be the largest cross-border journalism collaboration in history — now encompassing 110 journalists in more than 50 countries. ICIJ’s investigation revealed the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and nearly 130,000 individuals and agents, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con artists, and the mega-rich in more than 170 countries.

Look for more of ICIJ’s tax haven reporting in the weeks and months ahead. And look for action on what British Prime Minister David Cameron calls “the scourge of tax evasion” at the G-8 meeting —action that’s occurring because of ICIJ’s investigative work.

Until Next Week,


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