Reporters, researchers and citizens from Europe and around the world flocked to the site, a massive interactive database that cracks open the historically impenetrable world of offshore tax havens. The ICIJ, a project of the Center for Public Integrity [http://www.publicintegrity.org/], opened the database for the first time Saturday morning.
“The overwhelming response to the Offshore Leaks Database demonstrates the public’s desire to pull back the curtain on the secretive work of offshore companies,” said ICIJ director Gerard Ryle. “This system needs transparency because, without it, fraud, tax evasion and other forms of corruption will undoubtedly thrive.”
The database had nearly 230,000 visits on its first day, with the most visitors from Germany, Belgium, Canada, Spain and the US.
Tax evasion is a central theme of this week’s G8 meetings, and British Prime Minister Cameron says it’s time “to knock down the walls of company secrecy” that make the offshore system attractive to criminals.
The ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database [http://offshoreleaks.icij.org/] allows users to search through more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore locales including the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands and Singapore. The data are part of a cache of 2.5 million leaked files ICIJ analyzed with 112 journalists in 58 countries. The Offshore Leaks web app was developed by La Nacion newspaper [http://www.nacion.com/] in Costa Rica for ICIJ.
Since April 3, ICIJ’s stories based on the database have:
- Prompted high-profile resignations, including Austria’s most famed banker.
- Transformed tax-haven politics in the European Union.
- Triggered official investigations in the Philippines, India, Greece and South Korea.
There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts and ICIJ does not suggest or imply that the people and companies included in the database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.
After 17 months of reporting, ICIJ reporters and partners are still digging. ICIJ believes the best stories may come when readers explore the database. And, in fact, ICIJ received more than 150 fresh tips [https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/help?url=] from the public the day the database went public.