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Investigative journalism is not dead

Written By: - Date published: 8:46 am, April 6th, 2013 - 18 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, Ethics, International, news, overseas investment, telecommunications - Tags: , ,

Congratulations to Duncan Campbell, Nicky Hager, et al involved in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for doing such a great job on the Gobal Offshore Money Maze.  It began with an opportunity, as Duncan Campbell explains:

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’exploration of the secretive world of offshore companies and trusts began after a computer hard drive packed with corporate data and personal information and e-mails arrived in the mail.

Gerard Ryle, ICIJ’s director, obtained the data trove as a result of his three-year investigation of Australia’s Firepower scandal, a case involving offshore havens and corporate fraud.

The offshore information totaled more than 260 gigabytes of useful data. ICIJ’s analysis of the hard drive showed that it held about 2.5 million files, including more than 2 million e-mails that help chart the offshore industry over a long period of explosive growth.  It is one of the biggest collections of leaked data ever gathered and analyzed by a team of investigative journalists.

For the geeks, Campbell then goes into an explanation of how they developed software to sift through the jumble of data, and analyse it.

Of particular note is the high regard of Nicky Hager held by top investigative journalists internationally.  This inspite of the way NAct and their lackeys attempt to bad-mouth and undermine Hager.  Underneath Duncan Campbell’s article explaining the project, is this:

Duncan Campbell (U.K.), a founding member of ICIJ, is the ICIJ Data Journalism Manager for the Offshore Project and a contributing journalist.  Programmers Sebastian Mondial (Germany), Matthew Fowler (UK), Rigoberto Carvajal and Matthew Caruana (Costa Rica) provided custom software design, programming and data support. The initial manual analysis of the client names was done by ICIJ member Nicky Hager and Barbara Mare (New Zealand). ICIJ member Giannina Segnini oversaw the work in Costa Rica.

It will be a long time before all the data is fully interrogated and leads followed up.  Of note is the way Banks, financial speculators and wealth manipulators have been skewing the system.  they do this in ways that are further impoverishing the least wealthy and powerful people in diverse countries.  In his above linked article, Campbell says:

ICIJ’s data analysis showed that the people setting up offshore entities lived most often in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Another important group of clients comes from Russia and former Soviet republics.  This helps explain why the second-largest source of capital investment flowing into China is the tiny offshore tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.  Similarly, a large source of investment flowing into Russia is from Cyprus, a country that also features heavily in the data – and whose financial stability was recently undermined by a crisis precipitated by Cypriot-based banks being bloated by Russian money.

But don’t think it’s all those nasty folk in non-western countries orchestrating the dirty (though usually legal) deals. It is telling that Germany’s Deutsche Bank has been encouraging and managing a lot of these secret offshore accounts.  Furthermore, banks and other enterprises in Australia and NZ have also been part of the network.  See for instance links in Selwyn Manning’s Daily Blog post on the project.  One of the links goes to an ICIJ’s article on ‘Inside the shell: Drugs, arms and tax scams‘, on Queenslander George Taylor’s activities, family and networks:

Within this context, Taylor has led an astonishing double life. Publicly, he has served as a company director and chairman of sharemarket-listed companies both in Australia and in New Zealand. …

By then Taylor’s name, and the names of family members and associates, began to appear in hundreds and possibly thousands of companies that were formed around the world, mostly centered on tax havens. Their vast empire of directorships spread across Panama, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Britain, Hong Kong, China, Canada, Belize, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and the US, among others. …

More details of the activities in NZ/Auckland in the linked article.

Such projects restore my hopes in future of investigative journalism.  They also show how the capabilities of digital technologies can put to uses that benefit the many in holding the powerful few to account.


18 comments on “Investigative journalism is not dead”

  1. ianmac 1

    Although I understand little of the expose , there must be some very rich/powerful people who will understand the significance and move to discredit/destroy those who would uncover the maggots wriggling in the underbelly of global finance.
    Nicky Hagar and Barbara Mare might suddenly find themselves victims of a dawn raid, unbeknownst to the PM of course.

    • geoff 1.1

      The system is corrupt but the participants are largely self-serving. If a shark gets is bleeding in the water the other sharks don’t help, they eat it.
      When I’m feeling particularly naive I like to think we have finally reached the point where capitalism has sold itself the rope by which to hang it.

      • Ugly Truth 1.1.1

        The predatory nature of the civil system goes back to Rome, and from Rome back to Nimrod the hunter and Babylon. Capitalism isn’t responsible for the hubris and dictatorial attitude of the empire.

        • karol

          There’s a hint of Marxism in the notion that capitalism will eventually hang itself. And, Marx had a (dialectical materialist) historical perspective on the way capitalism evolved from previous systems. For Marx, each system eventually collapses through its internal contradictions and gives way to a new and different system.

          For Marxists and other left wingers I think there is much to be gained by putting pressure on the internal contradictions within capitalism.

    • karol 1.2

      Nicky Hagar and Barbara Mare might suddenly find themselves victims of a dawn raid, unbeknownst to the PM of course.

      I think that is not extremely likely, ianmac, though not beyond the realms of possibility.

      Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager are seasoned investigative journalists who have spoken truth to some major global powers int he past, and are still able to operate. Campbell was a respected left wing critical journalist back in the 80s and 90s when I lived in London. Like Hager, he gets dismissed by the neoliberals and elite front people – Key et al call Hager a muckraking conspiracy theorist.

      Such people have probably built up an extensive range of useful networks and contacts in diverse places.

  2. freedom 2

    for some highlights of the associated issues here is RT doing what the other networks shy from

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    They also show how the capabilities of digital technologies can put to uses that benefit the many in holding the powerful few to account.

    It’s a great first step. However, in the US what has happened when this kind of malfeasance has come to light is usually one of the following:
    – An out of court settlement (fine) with no admission of wrong doing, and no publication of details.
    – An out of court settlement (fine) with admission of wrong doing, but no criminal charges and no prison time.
    – One of the above, but also being hauled up in front of a Congressional committee and being told off. No rule or law changes to prevent future occurrences.
    – Above but with rule or law changes which get severely watered down so by the time they pass they are of the wet bus ticket variety.
    – Above, but not watered down, but also never enforced and ignored by authorities.

    • One Tāne Huna 3.1

      After all, what good is corruption if it fails to corrupt things?

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1


        Our society has been corrupted by the rich and powerful and it’s time we took it back off them.

    • karol 3.2

      I think the strength of the ICIJ is their extensive international networks, on and offline – distributed operations are far harder to dismantle. In contrast with say, wikileaks, it doesn’t seem so reliant on one, media-fronting, head honcho. Tasks have been delegated to various teams around the world.

      And they include journalists who have worked with major news organisations and/or publishers for several decades.

      And apparently they have far more international data than wikileaks ever held.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    …the dirty (though usually legal) deals.

    Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s right.

    This is something that we’re going to have to confront and put in place a lot of rules and regulations that will stop it from further impoverishing the least wealthy and powerful people in diverse countries.

    It’s time we brought the scam of capitalism to an end – permanently.

    • Arfamo 4.1

      Easiser said than done. Time was when I used to dismiss as the lunatic fringe the many global conspiracy theorists who claimed Western mainstream media was being deliberately dumbed down with fluff and distractions by the “global elite” to keep the masses ignorant and docile. Lately I’ve started to wonder if they’re actually right.

      • freedom 4.1.1

        not being patronizing Arfamo, straight up serious
        that is a genuinely difficult road for a lot of people and be confident that your doubts on the veracity of the MSM are well founded.

        All the best on your travels down the rabbit hole
        make regular rest stops, there are some great views to be had 🙂

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 4.1.2

        There’s a proliferation of junk media, that much is certain. There is still plenty of good journalism around though.

        • Arfamo

          Really? Even Key’s “brain fades” are starting to get treated as infotainment by mainstream media. The tv media is starting to be more widely seen as unreliable gossipers IMO.

  5. ghostrider888 5

    “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”

  6. geoff 6

    Sorry if you’ve already linked to this, karol:


  7. xtasy 7

    Yes, investigative journalism is not dead, but admittedly much too rare and limited to few great researchers like Hager doing such work.

    It is great to hear what he, Duncan Campbell and a few others have unearthed.

    There is plenty to be exposed, and that would include NZ politics, but I sadly see too little of it. New current affairs shows focus on “soft” and “emotive” stories, which do not rock the boat or shake the system.

    MSM are part of the problem, having basically given up doing the hard work journalism, and are rather shying away from upsetting ministers, business and other leaders of the establishment.

    John Key’s recent comments should actually motivate them to get back into the game of thorough investigative journalism.

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