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Panama Papers secrets could fall to crowdsourcing muscle

Ordinary people can help uncover fraud and corruption by sifting through the names of offshore companies exposed in the massive trove of leaked files, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists says during a Reddit AMA.


If you see something, say something.

Sorting through all the information in the massive Panama Papers leak could end up "being one of the biggest crowdsourcing efforts ever," Jake Bernstein of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said during a Reddit AMA session Wednesday. Bernstein, along with the ICIJ's Ryan Chittum and Mike Hudson, answered questions about long-term effects of the leaked documents, how the ICIJ analyzed the info and which high-profile business and government leaders might be tied to fraud.

The Panama Papers contain more than 11.5 million legal and financial files of the world's power elite, taken from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. The ICIJ, a German newspaper and other news groups spent more than a year sifting through the leaked records, and last month they published reports exposing the ways politicians and the superwealthy hide money in offshore accounts to avoid being taxed by governments or assessed by banking regulators.

We are Jake Bernstein, Ryan Chittum, and Mike Hudson with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) - AUA! from PanamaPapers

On Monday, the ICIJ opened up a massive, searchable database tied to the documents that contains information on almost 320,000 offshore entities. The ICIJ journalists said people could help by searching for notable people and connections in the database.

"Because there are so many names in the documents -- hundreds of thousands -- we know that we haven't come across many, many interesting ones," said Chittum during the AMA. "I hope that you all will recognize names that we don't and that you can help us uncover wrongdoing."

The journalists said they expect the Panama Papers will have a positive impact by revealing how the offshore world operates and how it is connected to corruption and inequality.

The documents have already had a wide-reaching effect, with a number of high-profile leaders having to face the music. Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, resigned, UK Prime Minister David Cameron endured criticism and protest, and Russian President Vladimir Putin accused journalists of trying to destabilize his government.

The identity of the person who leaked the documents is still unknown. The source, who has been using the pseudonym John Doe, said in a written statement last week that the files were leaked to shed light on growing income inequality.