How an Aussie tech company helped with the Panama Papers investigation
According to recent news, Australian technology company Nuix supplied document processing and investigation technology that was ‘essential’ to the Panama Papers investigation conducted by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Süddeutsche Zeitung received an anonymous leak of approximately 11.5 million documents, totaling 2.6 terabytes of data, detailing the activities of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which helped clients set up anonymous offshore companies.
While these offshore entities are generally legal in the jurisdictions in which they are registered, the investigation revealed that some were allegedly used for unlawful purposes including sovereign and individual fraud, drug trafficking, and tax evasion.
“Nuix technology was an indispensable part of our work on the Panama Papers investigation, as it has been with Offshore Leaks and many of our other in-depth investigative stories,” says Gerard Ryle, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists director.
Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ used Nuix software to process, index, and analyse the data. Investigators used Nuix’s optical character recognition to make millions of scanned documents text-searchable, and they used Nuix’s named entity extraction and other analytical tools to identify and cross-reference the names of Mossack Fonseca clients throughout millions of documents. More than 400 journalists in 80 countries around the world then investigated the data before publishing the first set of results on April 4, 2016.
Nuix donated the software to Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ for the purposes of the investigation, and a Nuix consultant also advised the investigators on hardware configurations and workflows. Nuix employees never saw or handled any of the leaked data - that task was undertaken by the journalists involved in the investigation.
“This is a huge trove of data by investigative journalism standards - around 10 times the data volume and five times the number of documents of ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks investigation in 2013,” says Eddie Sheehy, Nuix CEO.
“At the same time, this is only a medium-sized document set in the worlds of eDiscovery or regulatory investigations - some of our customers handle similar volumes of data every day. Nuix is the only technology in the world that can handle this much data and that many documents with speed and precision,” he says.