Hello! We're Will Fitzgibbon and Hamish Boland-Rudder (with a bit of help from Amy Wilson-Chapman) from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists!

Will and Hamish worked on the Panama Papers investigation that was released two years ago - today! We thought we'd take this chance to answer any new questions you have, and give you any updates we can.

Will Fitzgibbon is an investigative reporter and our Africa coordinator.

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Hamish Boland-Rudder is ICIJ's online editor.

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Amy Wilson-Chapman is ICIJ’s community engagement editor. She didn't work on the Panama Papers but may help Hamish and Will along the way today with more general questions.

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We always try our best to answer all your questions, but we often get asked specific questions relating to our research and what we found in our data! We'll try our best, but we're a small team - so please don't take it personally.

**Update 6.37pm ET*\* Thanks for playing guys! We're going to take off for the night. You can leave a question and we'll attempt to get it answered in the next couple days if you like. Thanks as always for supporting our work!

Comments: 424 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

siredebonerville559 karma

Two years on- do you feel the worldwide response to the Panama Papers has been commensurate with the importance of this exposé?

ICIJ558 karma

I think there's a lot more to do. But, when I take a step back, there's been a hell of a lot of impact and reform, too. Some of those are big changes -- laws in Panama, Germany and elsewhere. But in some countries, it's a change in the fact that now people think more about secretive shell companies and how powerful citizens use them to the disadvantage of others. Will

SoySauceSyringe235 karma

I couldn’t get through the phrase “worldwide response to the Panama Papers” without a derisive laugh and a lunge toward the nearest bottle of whiskey.

OP was 9 hours ago and currently has 63 comments. 64 now, I guess. Just sayin’.

Alberius21 karma

I'll be honest, didn't even know this AMA was going on until it hit the front page

ICIJ12 karma

We could have done more to promote it too, sorry about that. We're going to try and do another with our data team sometime soon. But we can only do so much!

whoisfourthwall295 karma

All of you all are very brave, thank you for the exposé. Many of us would have been suspicious but never would have thought of the depths it went.

Do you feel an elevated sense of danger when going about now? I've been reading about journalists being murdered in Europe with their investigations into corruption.
How do you keep yourself safe?

What other big projects are you all currently working on?

What happened to all the informants that helped made all of this possible? Did bad things happen to them? Are their anonymity successfully guaranteed?

There has been a recent spate of "fake news" bills across the world, what are your professional and personal thoughts about it? Some of the countries have passed it in parliament, others are postponing it.

ICIJ252 karma

Thank you, whoisfourthwall. Hearing back from people who read and enjoyed our work (and found it valuable) is really important to keep us motivated.

Definitely, journalists are more alert than they used to be. Even crossing borders and going through airports these days, you wonder if you will be stopped and searched. I think that collaborating can have a protecting effect on journalists. Just by working together you make it harder for someone to stand in your way or silence you. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work as we have seen in Europe recently.

We take protecting sources really seriously. (And we are always looking to hear from more whistleblowers and journalists for new story ideas, too). https://www.icij.org/blog/2018/04/why-you-should-share-your-story-with-icij/

Will

Herdnerfer249 karma

How much actual justice was served based on all the hard work you did?

ICIJ420 karma

Hi herdherfer. Let's be honest -- lots of people got away with stashing money offshore. In many countries, no investigations were started because the Big Fish were just too big. But we've seen lots of other countries where hundreds of millions of dollars in total has been recouped and where prosecutions have started.

Cuddlefooks96 karma

Any people relevant to the US that are likely to or have already faced prosecution?

ICIJ203 karma

Good question! Very hard to find out as the US doesn't speak openly about this stuff. The FBI did tell me in an FOI recently that they couldn't provide any hard information due to ongoing probes. So maybe there is something afoot. Will

anotherrustypic122 karma

Could you shed some light on the involvement of Indian big wigs in the whole fiasco? The whole news was skillfully and adequately hidden here.

Also, thanks for all the great work that you and your team is doing. You havw my respect and awe.

ICIJ77 karma

Thanks, anotherrustypic. We appreciate the kind words. I'm afraid I can't really talk about what happened in India much. I know we have great newspaper partners at the Express there. I'd go check out their reporting! Will

KnightOfLongKnives68 karma

How would you describe Julian Assange's reaction to your methods?

#PanamaPapers Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID & Soros.

https://mobile.twitter.com/wikileaks/status/717458064324964352

Paradise Papers are great and improvement on Panama Papers. but the basic problem, gate keeping nearly everything forever, is still present.

https://mobile.twitter.com/julianassange/status/927541866396037121

ICIJ163 karma

We like to think we're improving with every investigation as well!

ICIJ is in the business of public service journalism, and we'll never publish personal, private information en masse without first vetting it and ensuring it's of public interest. All of our stories go through a rigorous fact and legal checking process, and are only published if they meet the highest journalistic standard.

Our Offshore Leaks Database includes corporate data that you'd ordinarily find on any open corporate registry - except that a lot of this data is from jurisdictions that don't have open or easily accessible registries available online. Plus, we might have a bit of bias, but we think our data is a little easier to search.

On the Russian side of things, Putin never really contested our findings - he just said his friends and acquaintances had done nothing wrong (e.g. see this response: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/07/putin-dismisses-panama-papers-as-an-attempt-to-destabilise-russia). You be the judge.

ICIJ does not take money from USAID or any US government agency. We are open about our funders (including our funding from the Open Society Foundation, which was founded by George Soros), who have absolutely no control over our editorial output - which is exactly why they fund us! They are supporting completely independent journalism. -Hamish

JeffBoner9 karma

Fantastic. Keep up the good work.

ICIJ21 karma

Cheers!

mirror_scotty56 karma

I am surprised no one has asked, but what was the impact on Putin personally?

ICIJ110 karma

Hi, mirror_scotty. Hard to say on this. I don't have a direct line to him. But, by many accounts, he wasn't happy. There's a link here to a US intelligence agency report that mentions Panama Papers and Putin in the context of what happened in US election interference. Will. https://www.icij.org/investigations/panama-papers/panama-papers-revisited-yogurt-bananas-small-moustaches-fonts/

TenaciousJP44 karma

There was someone who started leaking out details of the Paradise Papers on /r/conspiracy last year, about a month before the actual reporting was released. Is that something you were aware of?

ICIJ48 karma

We were aware of the posts on Reddit... but thats all. It wasn’t something anyone at ICIJ did. - Amy

Adaraie43 karma

Did you fear for your safety?

ICIJ81 karma

Hi Adaraie. I work at ICIJ's Washington D.C. office so I wasn't really concerned for my safety. But I was definitely concerned for some of our partners who report in really tough environments. There was lots of nasty online abuse, law suit threats and some of our partners even had to leave their countries for a few days until things calmed down. Here's a little look at that topic I wrote about: https://www.icij.org/investigations/panama-papers/20161201-journalists-face-backlash/ - Will

Daemonic_One39 karma

Was there any one conclusion or data point that you feel stood out due to how unexpected it was? Something you didn't plan on seeing that came out in the research?

It's really easy to look at a well-formed article and say, "Well of course!" That's very different from seeing each piece come in live, and I'm curious what stuck with you.

ICIJ52 karma

I also think I really enjoyed the work our data team did in using the whole data to track trends in the offshore business. Where people preferred when the BVI fell out of favor, for example. That's how we get a sense of where people are moving their money to when they know they've been sprung somewhere else. https://www.icij.org/investigations/panama-papers/explore-panama-papers-key-figures/

Will

ICIJ31 karma

Hi there. I'll always remember the email I came across about Iran and when members of the law firm thought they might be doing business, ultimately, with the former president. "I think we could assume that would be mahmoud ahmadinejad unless I'm mistaken." Not the kind of surprise you want during a normal day in the office.

dieyoufool331 karma

What was the most unexpected consequence of the Panama Papers?

ICIJ110 karma

Protesters throwing yogurt in Iceland. I would never have thought to use that as a tool of resistance. - Will

IronPeter27 karma

Being Iceland it was probably skyr

ICIJ14 karma

It sure was!

sharrows24 karma

What advice do you have for college students looking to pursue journalism on the investigative, international scale you operate on?

ICIJ63 karma

Start local! Great journalists are embedded in their local community, and know what's important to their audiences. Some of the best investigative stories have deep roots within local communities, and can then point towards a bigger issue that might be national or even international. That's where collaboration comes in - if your local story has a broader angle to it, reach out to others and see if they're willing to work together. You can even pitch it to ICIJ!

College is a great place to start thinking like this, because you've got great access to other academic disciplines (can the computer science folk help you with that data, can the law school help you decipher that document?) and other colleges for collaboration (rivalries aside, if there's an issue important to your college, it's probably important to other colleges too).

-Hamish

ICIJ39 karma

+1 starting local is the best. You learn so much (and get a thick skin!) by being a reporter in a local community. - Amy

badgeringthewitness24 karma

(1) Someone was mentioning to me that few if any Americans were exposed by the Panama/Paradise Papers because the US Gov does a pretty good job of tracking Americans that attempt to use these services and using extraterritorial prosecution to punish them for US tax evasion. Is this broadly correct?

(2) If the above assertion is broadly correct, this gives the US Gov/Intelligence Community (IC) a motive to help in exposing the Panama/Paradise Papers as the downside is likely to be overwhelmingly felt by the foreign elites of US strategic competitors. I'm definitely not accusing you of being US IC, but is it possible they assisted you without your knowledge?

ICIJ60 karma

There are a few nuances hidden deep in the weeds of these investigations that are important to understand... and it all boils down to the nature of the information leaked to us. The Panama and Paradise Papers were (largely) from just three offshore service providers - three out of hundreds. So, although the data is extremely comprehensive and there's a lot of it, it's still only a snapshot of a much, much larger industry.

We know that Mossack Fonseca (Panama Papers) didn't have many U.S. clients (they themselves said this), and we also know that Appleby (Paradise Papers) did have a lot more U.S. clients, which is why the Paradise Papers included more stories on prominent Americans (such as people linked to Donald Trump and his administration).

We also know that some U.S. states (e.g. Delaware) have been labelled tax havens and already offer financial secrecy without people having to go offshore.

The U.S. does try to tax its citizens around the world. But it's also home to multinational corporations that have perfected the art of tax avoidance.

So, with all that said and done... you can see that it's a hugely complicated situation. In terms of the U.S. intelligence communities and their motivations? Hopefully they're busy chasing down criminals, and not meddling in journalism. -Hamish

squirticus22 karma

Why did this AMA get so little attention? Seems fishy

neo4510 karma

Probably one of the most important AMAs in this website's history, and totally swept under the rug and almost completely ignored. I stumbled on it purely by accident, and almost didn't even click on it until I realized what it was. It's a sad state of affairs.

vansinne_vansinne2 karma

It's weird that it's only hitting the front page at 2 am Eastern. They should absolutely just do this again, acknowledge the weird downvoting, and force another response

ICIJ2 karma

We'd love to do another one! And we will try. We did one just after the Paradise Papers was released too. We'll be back - don't worry!

funcomfy14 karma

Who are your journalistic inspirations?

ICIJ36 karma

From my perspective given what I do at ICIJ, it's definitely the awesome investigative journalists in Africa we work with. Moussa Aksar in Niger, Maxime Domegni in Togo, Sandrine Sawadogo in Burkina Faso, Shino Imannuel in Namibia, Alvin Ntibinyane in Botswana. These people do really great work and get amazing documents and access through pure hard work. - Will

MagFraggins13 karma

Do you think the Panama Papers had an effect on the 2016 election?

ICIJ30 karma

The U.S. election? The best guide on this probably comes from the various intelligence agencies that have been looking into external influences on the election. Here's a piece from the New York Times that sums up what the intelligence agencies found: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/politics/russian-hack-report.html

-Hamish

Tarsupin13 karma

Thanks for your fantastic work and efforts! One of the things I've been waiting for for quite some time is the involvement of AI in investigations, even if it's just the use of AI truth detection algorithms on videos to track down potential leads. But with lawyers starting to use AI to assist them, have journalists also found uses for that to supplement their work?

ICIJ23 karma

Good question! I'm not from ICIJ's data team, so I'm no expert in the wizardry they perform to make our data searchable, but I do know they're always experimenting with new technology to help make the lives of our reporters easier and help us get more from our data.

I don't think we've used AI much, but I know we're looking at improving entity extraction from within large datasets, and have made a lot of headway with getting journalists to use more powerful database tools (like graph databases through Neo4j and Linkurious), particularly when it comes to recognising patterns in networked data.

We do encourage our data gurus and tech geniuses to document their processes and write about the technology they use (and the tech trends they're following) on our blog, so we'll pass your question on and see if we can't squeeze a post out of them about AI and journalism sometime in the not-too-distant future!

-Hamish

asheikh117 karma

Do you feel that the disqualification of the Pakistani Prime Minister after his family was implicated in the papers was justified or that the verdict was unfair (based off what his supporters say)?

ICIJ18 karma

Our job as journalists is to investigate and bring issues of public interest to light. It's then up to society to respond - which can take the form of official action (investigations, arrests), court decisions, parliamentary debates, public discussions and more. That's why it's so important that when we publish, we get it right.

We stand by all our Panama Papers reporting, including our stories on the Pakistani Prime Minister's family and their links to offshore companies. How the authorities and the public chose to respond was entirely up to their democratic system. -Hamish

D1rtyH1ppy6 karma

Is the raw data available as a csv or MySQL database somewhere?

ICIJ3 karma

Info on how to download our Offshore Leaks Database is here!

skalp695 karma

Hello. Am I late at the party?

My question is Do you think globally, the articles blocked some money to be transfered in paradises? Or was it bad for Panama and good for others?

ICIJ15 karma

It's still early here in Australia (I'm based in Sydney), so you're fine! Welcome!

I think the global attention has certainly changed the game for these offshore law and wealth management firms, and has helped force a lot of tax havens to clean up their acts. But if there's one thing offshore service providers are good at, it's finding new loopholes when old ones close.

So here we are, two years later, still investigating financial secrecy and encouraging transparency... send us your tips! -Hamish

skalp6910 karma

send us your tips!

If we get some, what would be the best course to contact the ICIJ team?

ICIJ21 karma

If you want to contact us securely there is a few ways listed here!

ICIJ9 karma

Not too late!

ycvczkotyrl7abglhfss5 karma

How much money do you make a year as journalists? What's your yearly salary at the newspapers/news agencies that employ you?

ICIJ11 karma

ICIJ's model is quite unique - we work predominantly with journalists already employed by media outlets in their own country. So we don't pay their salary (or even know what they do or don't get paid!). It's one way we're able to do these global investigations so economically, because we're all pooling our resources and sharing the cost across a hundred media outlets.

As for us humble ICIJ team members... we're certainly not rich, but we're not starving either. We're really lucky to be able to work for an independent, nonprofit organization that actually lets us take our time to properly investigate, and that supports our work as journalists. I daresay if you asked any ICIJ staff member, they'd tell you that the ability to take part in a great investigative story comes before an amazing salary any day. But maybe I'm just naive. -Hamish

Patranus4 karma

Why won't you allow the public to inspect the original content as other sites such as Wikileaks?

ICIJ13 karma

We get asked this a bit... As Hamish explained earlier, we are in the business of public service journalism, and we'll never publish personal, private information en masse without first vetting it and ensuring it's of public interest.

All of our stories go through a rigorous fact and legal checking process, and are only published if they meet the highest journalistic standard.

Our Offshore Leaks Database includes corporate data that you'd ordinarily find on any open corporate registry - except that a lot of this data is from jurisdictions that don't have open or easily accessible registries available online. Plus, we might have a bit of bias, but we think our data is a little easier to search.

-Amy

emannyc20023 karma

do you find it interesting how such a big story disappeared so quickly from the news ?

ICIJ4 karma

As a journalist, I think this is a growing battle for every important story (not just ours). There is so much information flying around these days, we like to think ICIJ is just one of a cohort of trusted media outlets for our readers. - Amy

aerostotle2 karma

Where does Savage Garden keep their money?

ICIJ2 karma

On a mountain or in the sea, judging by some of their lyrics.

yukon_potato2 karma

Thank you so much for you work. My first in depth introduction into the panama papers was through the podcast “Reveal” and for a hour based podcast they did a great job of explaining the basics of what happened. Are there any other podcasts/audio programs you would recommend that go more in-depth with reporting on the Panama papers?

ICIJ3 karma

podcasts/audio programs

Hi. I can think of a few podcasts: this one involves ICIJ's deputy director and some great reporters. https://the1a.org/shows/2017-04-13/the-panama-papers-one-year-later

The Tax Justice Network also does lots of interesting podcasts on these issues, including special ones on Panama P. https://www.taxjustice.net/2017/04/20/panama-papers-1-year-april-2017-tax-justice-network-podcast/

NuancedFlow2 karma

Is there a next step you have planned for the investigation? Is there an area of the investigation you feel there is more to uncover?

Great work, this style of investigative journalism is inspiring.

ICIJ3 karma

The amazing this about this data (and the Paradise Papers) is that there is always something new. I look at the data almost every day and I often find new story ideas, new names of politicians, even. For example, someone who wasn't in politics two years ago but is now standing for president in some country -- we might only realize his or her importance now.

tawmoose2 karma

Could someone kindly explain what "--" means? I've never seen this anywhere before, but its many of the OPs' responses. Ty!

ICIJ3 karma

It’s some formatting issue >=( We use the new beta reddit and it seems to be coming out whack. It looks different now than it did before! Sorry! It’s annoying eh? - Amy

tawmoose2 karma

Thanks for your response, Amy! To the contrary, I thought it was a hip, new, journalism lingo that was like a critical intervention into... some language convention... or an NSA tracking deflector thinger. Maybe you've started something fun! Counter-culture kinda fun!

ICIJ3 karma

Haha, as a journalist it makes me cringe! I’m glad someone thinks we at ICIJ are hip! ;)

inam442 karma

Nawaz Sharif and his children had their name on the list and yet they deny it. What do you have to say to them?

ICIJ5 karma

Howdy! Hamish actually answered this in another question yesterday, so I thought I'd share that here. - Amy

Our job as journalists is to investigate and bring issues of public interest to light. It's then up to society to respond - which can take the form of official action (investigations, arrests), court decisions, parliamentary debates, public discussions and more. That's why it's so important that when we publish, we get it right.

We stand by all our Panama Papers reporting, including our stories on the Pakistani Prime Minister's family and their links to offshore companies. How the authorities and the public chose to respond was entirely up to their democratic system. -Hamish

mistah_legend1 karma

What are you most proud of in regards to the consequences that have occurred following the release of the Panama Papers?

What's the dream/goal y'all have been striving for when it comes to the consequences and justice that must be imposed on the perpetrators?

What do you feel has been overlooked?

Are you guys getting more anonymous tips now? Anything about UFOs yet?

ICIJ2 karma

So many anonymous tips. I'm convinced that there will be more big projects like Panama Papers in the future. So we'd be crazy not to check our mail, our inbox, Secure Drop, Signal, etc. All the ways ICIJ has for people to contact us.

I think one of the best results of Panama Papers was making offshore finance and its flaws more of a public issue than ever. The more light that is shone on it, the harder it will be for some people to misuse it.

wojcech1 karma

How can one help?

JeffBoner3 karma

Donate.

drforpretend1 karma

Do you think that offshore havens are a natural by-product of a world wide capitalist market coupled with the ability of each country to determine their own laws regarding finance?

ICIJ2 karma

Definitely nothing "natural" about what I saw in the Panama Papers. Countries choose to introduce these laws that allow tax havens to emerge and thrive. Politicians like to use offshore havens -- they could also in large part choose to close them down.

dwscopie1 karma

In regards to the cultural significance of investigations such as this one do you feel like we’ve hit the point where high net worth targets are more fearful of being caught and brought into the media spotlight for money laundering/ tax evasion or is the problem getting worse?

I’d imagine your work must have greatly changed the ways these backroom deals happen. Congrats and good job breaking this story.

Edit. Sorry I’m a bit late to the party. I had no idea this was happening today

ICIJ2 karma

Good question. I've seen plenty of leaked PowerPoint presentations and spoken to lots of lawyers and experts who say, definitely, many wealthy people have just decided that the risk of seeing their name on the front page is too great and so they are more cautious about what they do with their money.

That said, we know that if you have enough money to protect or hide, there will still be plenty of people, banks, lawyers accountants, etc willing to help you. So there is more work to be done.