The Washington DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, along with the Miami Herald and the DC-based McClatchy Newspapers, have won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced on April 10.
The media outlets won the prestigious United States award “for the Panama Papers, a series of stories using a collaboration of more than 300 reporters on six continents to expose the hidden infrastructure and global scale of offshore tax havens,” the Pulitzer Prize Board stated in its announcement.
ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle responded on the same day the prize was announced.
“This honour is a testament to the enterprise and teamwork of our staff and our partners here in the United States and around the world,” Mr. Ryle said. “We’re honoured that the Pulitzer Board recognised the groundbreaking revelations and worldwide impact that the Panama Papers collaboration produced.”
The Panama Papers reporting drew on some 11.5 million documents leaked from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has an office in the Virgin Islands.
The investigation exposed offshore companies linked to more than 140 politicians in more than 50 countries — including 14 current or former world leaders, according to the ICIJ — and it painted the territory in a largely negative light.
For example, an April 3, 2016 article by ICIJ member Jake Bernstein reported that close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin used VI-registered companies as part of a complex network through which to secretly move some $2 billion.
Other reports alleged that high-level public officials from other countries also used VI-registered companies for questionable purposes, including Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif; Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; and four of the 16 FIFA officials who were charged by the US government over corruption allegations.
The VI was also called out in an April 2016 article by the Guardian that alleged deficiencies within the territory’s regulatory regime.
The same week that those reports and other Panama Papers-related journalism were published, government announced that it would conduct an investigation into the VI branch of Mossack, and in November the Financial Services Commission levied an unprecedented $440,000 fine on the firm for allegedly breaking anti-money laundering rules by failing to conduct proper due diligence checks on its customers; failing to keep proper records; and failing to have an effective system of internal controls to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, according to the FSC.
The fallout of the Panama Papers reporting also continues for Mossack founders Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, who face money laundering charges in Panama and are in prison on remand.
The negative publicity from the Panama Papers has also been blamed for contributing to the VI’s slowest year for new company incorporations since at least 2003 (see Beacon Business).