Paradise Papers

Countries with politicians, public officials, or close associates named in the leak

The Paradise Papers are a set of 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments that were leaked to the German reporters Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer[1] from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,[2] and a network of more than 380 journalists. Some of the details were made public on 5 November 2017 and stories are still being released.

The documents originate from legal firm Appleby, the corporate services providers Estera and Asiaciti Trust, and business registries in 19 tax jurisdictions.[3] They contain the names of more than 120,000 people and companies.[4] Among those whose financial affairs are mentioned are, separately, AIG,[5] Prince Charles[6] and Queen Elizabeth II,[7] President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.[8] At 1.4 terabytes in size, this is second only to the Panama Papers of 2016 as the biggest data leak in history.[9]


On 20 October 2017, an anonymous Reddit user hinted at the existence of the Paradise Papers.[10] Later that month, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) approached the offshore law firm Appleby with allegations of wrongdoing. Appleby said that some of its data had been stolen in a cyberattack the previous year, and denied the ICIJ's allegations.[11] After media outlets started reporting on the documents, the company said that there was "no evidence of wrongdoing", that they "are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business", and that they "do not tolerate illegal behaviour".[12]

Appleby stated the firm "was not the subject of a leak but of a serious criminal act" and that "this was an illegal computer hack". "Our systems were accessed by an intruder who deployed the tactics of a professional hacker", the company said.[13][14]

The documents were acquired by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which had also obtained the Panama Papers in 2016. According to the BBC, the name "Paradise Papers" reflects "the idyllic profiles of many of the offshore jurisdictions whose workings are unveiled", so-called tax havens, or "tax paradises".[3]

The data breach comprises some 13.4 million documents—totaling about 1.4 terabytes—from two offshore service providers, Appleby and Asiaciti Trust, and from the company registers of 19 tax havens.[15] Süddeutsche Zeitung journalists contacted the ICIJ, which has been investigating the documents with 100 media partners. The consortium made the data available to these media partners using Neo4j,[16] a graph-database platform made for connected data, and Linkurious,[17] graph-visualization software. This allowed journalists across the globe to undertake collaborative investigative work. The documents were released by the consortium on 5 November 2017.[8][18]

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