An anonymous whistle-blower and an astounding 2600 GB of data. A giant leak of 11.5 million financial and legal records. A global collaboration of over 100 news organizations working in twenty-five languages in eighty countries. More than 350 reporters on the trail for nine months in complete secrecy.
The Panama Papers exposed in black and white the crime and corruption of the rich and powerful who stashed away their wealth in tax havens. This is the India story of the mega investigation.
The Panama Papers shook the world, woke up governments and showed what investigative journalism could achieve even in a post-truth world through a path-breaking alliance between an individual whistle-blower and a coalition of global media. The only Indian publication in the global collaboration, the Indian Express played a crucial role. Now, for the first time, award-winning journalists Ritu Sarin, Jay Mazoomdaar and P. Vaidyanathan Iyer tell the backstory of hot leads and cold trails, of open denial and veiled intimidation.
The Panama Papers underlined the loot of public money and the need for tax reforms. In an age of rising inequality, the importance of public funding to fight poverty cannot be overstated. The lack of public confidence in regulatory frameworks or political will also fuels perceptions of illegitimacy of wealth. In India, black money has gained more currency than ever as a political metaphor and future electoral gains may well depend on the perceived success of a war against illegal wealth. Financial corruption though cannot be defeated without transparency in election funding. The Panama Papers reignited a global debate on surmounting these challenges.