ICIJ Reporting on Secret Financial Networks Worldwide

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ICIJ Reporting on Secret Financial Networks Worldwide

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri May 17, 2013 3:15 pm

http://www.icij.org/blog/2013/04/penetr ... lt-secrecy

Advocacy groups like the Tax Justice Network estimate that about $250 billion is lost in taxes each year by governments worldwide, solely as a result of wealthy individuals holding their assets offshore. The revenue losses from corporate tax avoidance are greater.

The group estimates that half of all global trade now passes through tax havens and an estimated one third of world wealth now resides there.

The issue of secrecy jurisdictions is not just about evading taxes.

Shell companies - that is, corporations with no apparent operations, no apparent employees and no apparent physical assets - are used by those who register them for a range of other nefarious activities around the world.

Thanks to loose laws of incorporation in many jurisdictions, it's easy for offenders to remain anonymous. And the entities can often be formed in less than 24 hours using online facilities.

It is not just criminals that take advantage. The secret service arms of governments use tax havens to create covers for their networks of spies, according to experts we have talked to. And advocacy groups claim many small-time dictators use tax havens to strip the assets of their people.

Even more interesting, to me is these two posts about the procedural aspects:

Notes from a Long-Distance Investigation
http://www.icij.org/blog/2013/05/notes- ... estigation

How ICIJ’s Project Team Analyzed the Offshore Files - 200 GB! That's all?
http://www.icij.org/offshore/how-icijs- ... hore-files

Tackling the data

Analyzing the high volume of information was the team’s first and central challenge. With this much data, relevant information, and good stories, cannot be found just “going and looking.” What’s needed is to use “free text retrieval” (FTR) software systems.

Modern FTR systems can work with huge volumes of unsorted data, many times larger than even in this landmark investigative project. They pre-index every number, word and name, making it possible for complex queries to be completed in milliseconds. The searches are akin to using advanced features on Google or other internet search engines but are more sophisticated – and, critically, are private and secure.

The use of FTR, as well as relevant features such as timelines that tools can extract and display, have been critical to the success of the project. It sounds complicated, but still boils down to asking one of the most important questions that investigative journalists ask: “Who knew what, when?”

In their modern form, high-end FTR and analysis systems have been sold for more than a decade, in large quantities, to intelligence agencies, law firms and commercial corporations. Journalism is just catching up. Many of the tools are too expensive for most journalism organizations and may be too sophisticated for most to use. Perhaps the best-known intelligence analysis system, i2 Analysts Notebook, has been used by very few journalists or news organizations.

The major software tools used for the Offshore Project were NUIX of Sydney, Australia, and dtSearch of Bethesda, Md. NUIX Pty Ltd provided ICIJ with a limited number of licenses to use its fully featured high-end e-discovery software, free of charge. The listed cost for the NUIX software was higher than a non-profit organization like the ICIJ could afford, if the software had not been donated.

Computer programmers in Germany, the UK and Costa Rica designed sophisticated data mining and cleaning software for ICIJ to support data research. Before it was used, though, manual analysis had established much country-by-country identification of clients and thus provided an initial look at the scope and range of clients. This painstaking work was done in New Zealand and it proved crucial in early decisions on what countries ICIJ needed reporters to work in.

ICIJ’s online search and retrieval system – named Interdata - was developed and deployed by a British programmer in less than two weeks in December 2012 to support an urgent need to get relevant documents and files out faster for research by dozens of new journalists who were joining the expanding Offshore Project.

Interdata allowed team members to access and download copies of any of the offshore documents that were relevant to their countries and interests. Journalists using the Interdata system have to date made over 28,000 online searches and downloaded more than 53,000 documents.

Tip of the iceberg -- tons more content on the site, I am barely scratching the surface.


Also check out the Tax Justice site:
http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_con ... t=2&lang=1
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Re: ICIJ Reporting on Secret Financial Networks Worldwide

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri May 17, 2013 3:39 pm

Another small goldmine I was unaware of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firepower_International

This was apparently the genesis of ICIJ's hard drive discovery...

Firepower International was advertised as a Hong Kong-based company owned and operated by Global Fuel Technologies Ltd, specializing in technology purporting to reduce the fuel consumption and environmental impact of petrol-operated vehicles. There were other offices in Sydney, China, Rhodes, Athens and Papua New Guinea, according to the now-defunct official company website. But "in reality it was a handful of people in an industrial estate in Perth", who were conducting a complex of fraudulent operations. The original entity—Firepower Operations Pty Ltd—was a $1 company, first registered in December 2004, owned by Firepower Holdings Group Ltd, a company with an address in the British Virgin Islands.

Through connections created with gullible Australian federal ministers, trade officials and their networks, the governments of Britain, Russia, Romania and many others were persuaded to believe Firepower offered important solutions to global warming and the peak oil energy crisis. However, after questions were raised about the efficacy of the 'Firepower Pill' and related products in reducing engine fuel consumption, the Firepower organisation's principal, Timothy Francis (Tim) Johnston, was claimed by media critics to have perpetrated a large-scale confidence trick or scam, the subject of investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). In July 2011, ASIC banned Johnston from managing any company for twenty years.
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Re: ICIJ Reporting on Secret Financial Networks Worldwide

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri May 17, 2013 6:40 pm

Now that I'm digging through this material I am most struck by what isn't said: This is really an investigative account of how Western companies & governments help BRICS and Third World dictators get away with horrible crimes. This is not an investigative account of how Western companies & governments get away with horrible crimes.

I am reminded by this recent comment: viewtopic.php?p=503688#p503688

geogeo wrote:Interesting documentation of the emerging neo-Cold War dynamic: US & minions v. BRICS. File next to story on CIA spy outing in Moscow.

As origin stories go, "someone just mailed us this hard drive" deserves some f'ing examination. Especially in light of the contents.


Who uses this vast financial machinery? Nobody in the UK, and the only person in the United States is....Denise Rich.

There's a remarkable lack of actual meat here, for all the fireworks and "content."
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Re: ICIJ Reporting on Secret Financial Networks Worldwide

Postby cptmarginal » Fri May 17, 2013 9:16 pm

Thanks for going into some of the details on this. I've had the initial ICIJ story bookmarked and unread for a while now, and was thinking of searching the "end of Wall Street boom" thread for some discussion of it.

This also was published around the same time (it's right next to it in my "unread" bookmarks folder)

The Shadowy Residents of One Hyde Park—And How the Super-Wealthy Are Hiding Their Money | Vanity Fair

"Who really lives at One Hyde Park, called the world’s most expensive residential building? Its mostly absentee owners, hiding behind offshore corporations based in tax havens, provide a portrait of the new global super-wealthy."
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Re: ICIJ Reporting on Secret Financial Networks Worldwide

Postby smiths » Thu May 23, 2013 12:54 am

this information and work is critical, evidence of crimes is what gets results

i am following these guys as well, also, as well as the Tax Justice site these two connected ones are well worth reading regularly for evidence and links


the question is why, who, why, what, why, when, why and why again?
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