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Vast Document Leak Exposes World Offshore Economy Of The Mega-Rich

Over 120,000 offshore companies and trusts brought into public view.

Posted on April 4, 2013, at 12:12 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — A massive trove of secret documents exposing the world of offshore finance favored by the rich has been made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The leak goes to the heart of a vast offshore financial system based entirely on secrecy that has never been breached at this scale. Weighing in at 260 gigabytes, the data is 160 times larger than the State Department cables that WikiLeaks published in 2010. The files were mailed to ICIJ on a computer flash drive; the identity of the sender is not clear. They comprise financial details from over 120,000 offshore companies, according to ICIJ.

The information implicates government officials and leading figures in business and finance around the world. Americans involved in using offshore tax havens include former Democratic fundraiser Denise Rich and James R. Mellon, a scion of the Mellon family.

Elsewhere, government officials in Venezuala, Russia, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Canada, and other countries appear in the files as having benefited from the use of a complex system of offshore accounts based in countries ranging from the Cook Islands to Lichtenstein and Singapore.

The files detail how the global elite uses offshore accounts to buy property and priceless artworks, and sheds light on two of the biggest offshore firms that facilitate these transactions, TrustNet in Singapore and Commonwealth Trust Limited in the British Virgin Islands.

The data touches on money-fueled relationships with unsavory characters, including Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, and some recent scandals, such as Russia's Magnitsky affair.

The full report by ICIJ can be found here.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.