2022 The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Large Newsroom finalist

Pandora Papers

About the Project

The Pandora Papers exposed how money and power operate in the 21st century — revealing new insights into an offshore financial system that perpetuates corruption and authoritarianism, exploits the vulnerable and widens gaps between rich and poor. One U.S. senator called the investigation a “wake-up call to all who care about the future of democracy.”

More than 600 journalists at 151 news organizations in 117 countries joined forces to produce the largest collaboration in journalism history.

Launched in October by ICIJ, The Washington Post and other partners, the investigation uncovered financial secrets of more than 330 current and former presidents, prime ministers and other officials, including the King of Jordan and leaders of Kenya, Chile and Ecuador.

Beyond naming big political names, the Pandora Papers shifted the world’s focus from tiny island “tax havens” to the Western politicians, lawyers and accountants who enable offshore financial secrecy and the crimes and corruption it fosters.

Here at home, our stories provided the deepest examination yet of the conflicted role the U.S. plays in the offshore system. The U.S. has positioned itself as the world’s main watchdog against corruption and money laundering, criticizing tax havens in the Caribbean and Europe even as financial gatekeepers in South Dakota and more than a dozen other states shield foreign assets tied to clients accused of abuses in the world’s most impoverished communities.

Well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Western authorities to seek new sanctions against people and companies tied to Vladimir Putin, the Pandora Papers team’s reporting revealed how oligarchs and others close to him used offshore agents in Cyprus, London and even Wyoming to shuffle wealth into safety.

The power of the investigative collaboration can be seen, for example, in how six partners from five countries worked together to expose how Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis used offshore subterfuge to secretly buy a $22 million chateau on the French Riviera.

The story began when a U.S.-based ICIJ reporter discovered telltale documents within a trove of leaked offshore records. A Radio France reporter pitched in, digging through real estate records in France and Monaco. Journalists with the BBC and German public broadcasters NDR and WDR interviewed experts to suss out how the offshore maneuvers were carried out. Reporters with Czech news outlet obtained Babis’ personal financial disclosures, then were manhandled by his bodyguards when they confronted him in a parking lot with questions about his offshore dealings.

Days after our stories ran, Czechs voted Babis and his party out of power, a stunning upset. One Czech media poll found 8% of his supporters switched their votes as a result of Pandora Papers revelations.

In this entry, we are submitting links to five stories produced by ICIJ and The Washington Post. They are representative of the work of the partnership; they wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication, shoe leather and sheer courage of media partners around the world.