Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was also
in the Global Tax 50
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
(ICIJ) has once again compiled documents that lay bare the tax
affairs of those who would rather they were kept secret, this
time in the Paradise Papers released on November 5.
Since splitting from the Center for Public Integrity (which
founded the ICIJ in 1997) in February 2017, the entirely
independent, non-profit news organisation has made its mark.
International Tax Review caught up with Gerard Ryle,
who leads the ICIJ's operations from Washington DC, to talk
about the Paradise Papers, corporate tax avoidance and the role
International Tax Review: You've told us before that you
wouldn't want to just keep on doing 'leaks' stories unless they
offer something different. What do you think the Paradise
Papers show us that your previous exposés have not?
Gerard Ryle: In some ways, the Paradise
Papers was a more important story than Panama Papers. Though
the reaction to the Panama Papers was more dramatic –
with the quick fall of the Iceland Prime Minister and the later
fall of the Pakistan Prime Minister – the Paradise
Papers showed real systemic failure. Here were the richest
people and the richest companies in the world using a system
that allows them to avoid tax. I particularly thought our
revelations about corporate tax avoidance was very important,
and something that was missing from our coverage of the Panama
ITR: How do you see the ICIJ's role on the world stage?
What are you trying to achieve?
GR: We are an investigative journalism
organisation, doing investigative journalism. We do not
approach any issue with preconceived notions. We do not do
advocacy. We are simply reporting on issues that are of genuine
public interest. At a time when journalism itself is under
pressure, both from the concept of 'fake news' and because the
advertising business models that have long sustained journalism
are broken, we believe it is more important than ever to
provide journalism in the public interest. What marks us out
from others is that we encourage journalists to share
information and work together, across the world.
ITR: What do you think governments can do to address tax
GR: I believe we are looking at systemic
problems that are global. Therefore, I believe governments need
to get together and work out a solution that is global. The
first step would be to remove the secrecy that is associated
with tax havens.
ITR: What do you think of transparency initiatives like the
common reporting standard, automatic exchange of information
and tax haven blacklists?
GR: I think all of these things help, but
clearly – as is evidenced from the Paradise Papers
reporting – they do not go far enough. They just
tinker around the edges of a much deeper problem –
that of secrecy.
ITR: What were the most interesting stories, for you, to
come out of the Paradise Papers?
GR: For me, the most important reporting
was on the large multinational corporations we found in the
Paradise Papers. I was particularly impressed by some of the
on-the-ground reporting in Africa. There are real victims here.
People who are being denied access to hospital care, to
schools, and to a standard of living that most of us expect in
modern society. I don't think it is good enough to say: 'no law
was broken'. Tax havens are causing real poverty and real
inequity and it is important that journalism points this out.
It is then up to civil society to react to the work of the
journalists, if it sees fit to do so.
ITR: The LuxLeaks appeal is ongoing – is it
something your organisation is following, or involved in in any
GR: We are following the proceedings with
great interest. The ICIJ does not get involved with advocacy,
except when one or more of our member journalists are