Swiss Leaks: Murky Cash Sheltered by Bank Secrecy
Organisation: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) (United States)
Publication Date: 04/11/2015
DescriptionSwiss Leaks is a collaborative data-driven investigation by more than 170 reporters that exposes how the Swiss branch of one of the world’s biggest banks, HSBC, profited from doing business with tax dodgers and criminals around the world. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained via the French newspaper Le Monde 60,000 leaked files with names and assets of over 100,000 HSBC clients. Politicians, royalty, influential public figures, celebrities and arms dealers in more than 200 countries held assets worth $100 billion. Even though this investigation started with a leak, ICIJ - a project of the Center for Public Integrity - wanted to do more with this data than just publish lists of famous names. The complex data work started with the reconstruction of the client database, which ended up forming a network of thousands of nodes that we mined through social networking analysis tools. ICIJ also performed key identifications to associate the data to countries and make it relevant for the investigative journalists - and for the world. Our interactive application disclosing the main figures on the leak has received almost 10 million pageviews and been used as a base for hundreds of follow-up articles by other media organizations. A systematic analysis of the internal bank notes showed that HSBC was aware of wrongdoing by some clients - many even visited the Switzerland offices to make discreet cash withdrawals in person. After learning of our investigation, the bank acknowledged that it was “accountable for past compliance and control failures.” Minutes after we published the #swissleaks hashtag, it trended on Twitter for days. The huge public reaction created pressure for a swift response from governments and authorities, who would in the weeks to follow announce criminal prosecutions and parliamentary inquiries, including the first ever raid by Swiss authorities on a Swiss bank and a criminal investigation against HSBC in France.
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