Investigative reporting is a lengthy, painstaking, and often risky process.
We faced all of these challenges in preparing the major report that we will be releasing soon: an investigation that pulls back the curtain on China’s links to the offshore world.
Behind the hidden fortunes and corporate stratagems that have been uncovered in recent years – such as the exposés by the New York Times of the wealth of former Premier Wen Jiabao’s family and by Bloomberg of the fortune of current President Xi Jinping’s relatives – lies another, even more secretive world: the booming trade in secretive entities in tax havens that can be linked to China.
Much of this trade is done in collaboration with major Western financial institutions and, I hasten to add, is often perfectly legal.
But with little notice or fanfare, China has emerged as a leading source of new offshore clients. A survey last November of more than 200 bankers and other offshore professionals by the offshore services company Offshore Incorporations Limited found that China and Hong Kong had become the top two sources of new clients by country. Over the next five years, nearly three times as many respondents predicted China would be the top source of offshore clients.
“China is the most important location for client origination for business in the next five years,” said the CEO of a BVI trust company quoted in the report.
Very soon, ICIJ and our media partners around the world will expose new details of China’s hidden offshore economy. We will release our reporting on more than 20,000 offshore clients from mainland China and Hong Kong contained in our Offshore Leaks database, and relate the untold story of how offshore dealings emerged as a favored business strategy among China’s elite.
The report will open a new chapter in the revelations about the secret dealings of China’s ruling class, and shine a light on a key tactic for hiding wealth that has previously remained murky.
I invite you to sign up for our email newsletter to be the first to read this project when it launches.
There were many unique difficulties reporting this project – not least the almost impossible task reporters have found in penetrating a world that is built on secrecy.
ICIJ is also unique in that we use local reporters, reporting in their own languages. The added value of working with ICIJ is that reporters get access to our network of reporters around the world – a network we are growing and building on all the time.
People often ask why we give our reports away for free. One of the answers is that ICIJ is in the business of encouraging collaboration. We believe that reporters working together produce a richer form of investigative journalism.
Our funding comes from philanthropic foundations and individuals. We are a non-profit organization – a project of the Center for Public Integrity.
Why didn’t we release this part of the project with the other main parts in April 2013?
For good reasons:
- There were very many names that could be linked to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also takes a long time to understand this complex world, especially when working across multiple jurisdictions and languages;
- We’ve been analyzing a wide range of data sources. It takes time to identify the most relevant people and stories. We’re most interested in identifying systemic patterns.
What we do at ICIJ is slow journalism.
It is expensive and unique, and is increasingly under threat as media organizations around the world continue to downsize and back away from investigative reporting. Therefore we appreciate your readership and the public support we receive.
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