Data from the Panama Papers investigation, which revealed how major figures in politics and businesses avoid paying taxes by storing their wealth overseas, will soon be released to the public.
On April 26, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a group consisting of 107 media organizations in 78 countries, announced it would release a searchable database of documents on May 9.
These documents, a follow-up to the 11 million papers held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca that were leaked to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and made public on April 15, will contain further information about prominent figures who benefit from secret offshore accounts that don’t require them to pay taxes in their home countries.
“The Panama Papers investigation revealed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and other politicians as well as criminals and celebrities,” ICIJ wrote on its website. “It exposed the role of big banks in facilitating secrecy and tax evasion and avoidance. And it showed how companies and individuals blacklisted in the U.S. and elsewhere for their links to terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes were able to do business through offshore jurisdictions.”
The documents, when released, will not be a “data dump” of information, according to the ICIJ. Bank account numbers, emails, passports and telephone numbers will be edited out of the database, which the ICIJ said is for the “public interest.”
Revelations from the first release of the Panama Papers have already led several government officials, including Spain's acting industry minister Jose Manuel Soria and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, to step down due to a public outcry. Others, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have been tied to companies and investments outside their countries of residence.
Leaders around the world, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have spoken out about the impact of the Panama Papers on governance.
“We’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem,” Obama said, according to the ICIJ. “It’s not unique to other countries. A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed.”