Last weekend, media outlets around the world released stories based on the Paradise Papers, a collection of more than 13 million leaked files detailing how the world’s wealthiest people have parked their money in offshore tax havens.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists analyzed the documents along with 380 reporters at least 95 organizations around the globe, after they were first obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a major German newspaper. Stories so far uncovered offshore accounts used by multinational companies like Apple looking to minimize taxes and detailed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s investments in companies tied to associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and more reports are expected to follow in the coming weeks.
But while journalists from around the world analyzed the materials from international law firm Appleby, trust company Asiaciti and corporate registries in 19 jurisdictions, much of the technical work to turn the raw leaked documents into a searchable, usable, and secure database was done by a skeleton crew at the ICIJ. About 9 or 10 developers, analysts, and product managers worked for about 14 months on the technical side of the project, says Pierre Romera, the ICIJ’s chief technology officer.
“We are a very, very small team,” he says.
Of course, it wasn’t the ICIJ’s first time dealing with a massive document dump: the famous Panama Papers leaked in 2015 included a similar volume of material, and the ICIJ has worked with smaller-scale offshore leaks as well. Over the years, ICIJ’s team has developed digital tools and procedures to…