ICIJ has added a country search to help online researchers explore the secretive world of more than 100,000 offshore companies and trusts in the publically available ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database.
The new country filter provides a way to narrow searches to more than 170 countries and territories named within addresses in the database.
The online database represents a small part of a cache of 2.5 million leaked offshore files that ICIJ analyzed with a team of 112 reporters in 58 countries for more than 15 months. Until now it was difficult to get comprehensive country-by-country results when searching the online application.
The new filter helps users do more efficient targeted searches in a particular geographical location.
A dropdown box on the main search page now offers the choice to search for text across the entire database, to filter by country or to combine a company/name text search with the filter.
The results screen displays separate lists for:
- Officers/Master Clients (where individual names will appear),
- Offshore Entities (companies, trusts and other entities),
- Listed addresses in that country.
Click on a result to open an interactive diagram of an offshore entity, named person or address.
Don’t forget that you can click on a dot in the diagram to expand the results to additional connected entities.
And click on “Undo” in the lower right hand corner of the screen to go back to the previous diagram.
Searching for Marcos in the Philippines
For example, reporters from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism discovered offshore trusts and bank accounts linked to a senior political figure, provincial governor Maria Imelda “Imee” Marcos Manotoc: “Ferdinand Marcos’ Daughter Tied to Offshore Trust in Caribbean.”
There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts, and the records of persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database do not mean they have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.
Philippine law requires that public officials disclose all assets, including business interests and financial connections. The reporters examined Marcos’ asset disclosure statements and found that the governor’s offshore entities were not listed. The governor did not respond to the journalists’ request for comment.
I went into the database to see what I could find there on Marcos. When entering the word “Marcos” into the search box, I found a result for “Imee Marcos Manotoc.” Clicking on the result led me to the entity “M Trust.” But by using the country filter, and browsing through the list of all the names connected to addresses in the Philippines, I saw a different result with the name spelled “Maria Imelda Marco Manotoc” which led to two additional offshore entities.
When searching, be aware of typos, spelling variations, misspellings and abbreviations. Tips on search techniques are here.
The ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database details the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.
It includes more than 100,000 entities incorporated in 10 offshore jurisdictions: British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Samoa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Labuan and Malaysia. The information comes from two offshore service firms: Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL). Records on the people and agents who run, own, benefit from or hide behind offshore companies are included.
Until today, other than deleting obvious duplicate records, ICIJ had not enhanced the data. Now programmers Rigoberto Carvajal (Costa Rica) and Matt Fowler (UK) mined about 61,000 listed addresses found in the database. They created an automated process that looked for country names at the end of the text of these addresses, adjusting for typing errors, abbreviations, acronyms and certain keywords, and successfully matched about 55,000 addresses to countries with these programming scripts. Two thirds of the unidentified addresses were geocoded using Google Maps API. The remaining addresses were matched manually. Nothing in the original leaked data has been altered; the new country field is an added feature for targeted searching.
To find out more about how ICIJ’s project team analyzed the massive and complex trove of data and documents, see http://www.icij.org/offshore/how-icijs-project-team-analyzed-offshore-files. This other post explains how we built the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database.
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