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Frederik Obermaier talks Panama Papers, global crime & cocktails at Dark Havens

14 minutes

Frederik Obermaier on global crime & collaborative reporting, the demise of the 'lone wolf' investigative journalist, Panama Papers cocktails, writing that email to Vladimir Putin, and a thank you message to John/Jane Doe for the 11.5 million files contained in the Panama Papers.

The stories are global, crimes are global and journalism needs to be global: Frederik dishes on the complexities of working collaboratively with 400 journalists from 80 countries over a year to publish the Panama Papers.

Tax Havens + Investigative Journalism + Collaboration + Panama Papers + #DNL15


Frederik Obermaier

Investigative journalist, Süddeutsche Zeitung, DE

"It was a difficult process, to be honest. Our editor-in-chief (Wolfgang Krach) was a big fan of collaborations, so he encouraged us to share the data. It think he's a visionary in this aspect.

We also had colleagues who asked us:

'Frederik, Bastian are you stupid?

You're sharing a scoop!

Why should you?'

Sometimes they're in this old lonely wolf mindset, journalists, especially investigative journalists being the lonely wolf not sharing anything even with his outlet... always secretive, always hunting for the scoop.

These times are over in journalism. I think in investigative journalism, it's now the pack, the power of the pack. And it's only logical because crime is not limited to one country anymore.

We're speaking about transnational organised crime groups. So it's only logical to team up as journalists to tackle this problem, to uncover it. And I think we need more. We do see a lot of collaborations currently in journalism, and I think that's good. The more, the merrier!"

Frederik Obermaier is a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter for the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s leading broadsheet. He is one of the two reporters first contacted by the anonymous source of the Panama Papers, the leaked documents that prompted a global investigation involving hundreds of journalists. He also initiated the Paradise Papers-revelations. Obermaier is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,

Photo by Stefanie Preuin/SZ

If you have data, contact Frederik Obermaier using a secure channel & encrypted communication. Please note that unencrypted email, skype and phone calls are highly susceptible to being monitored or accessed.

Documentary: The Panama Papers (2018), directed by Alex Winter (TRAILER)

“We’ve said it again and again: some stories are too big, too complex and too global for lone-wolf muckrakers or even individual news organisations to tackle. We believe collaboration is the wave of the future in global journalism. Pooling resources and sharing information is a powerful way to investigate and expose stories that politicians, corporations and organized criminals are determined to keep in the shadows.”

Gerard Ryle, Director ICIJ

PANAMA PAPERS: How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money


Frederik Obermaier (Investigative Journalist, Süddeutsche Zeitung, DE). Moderated by Max Heywood (Transparency International Global Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator, UK/DE).

The Panama Papers began with a cryptic message from an anonymous whistleblower. “Hello, this is John Doe,” the source wrote. “Interested in data?” In the months that followed, the confidential source transferred emails, client data and scanned letters, from Mossack Fonseca, a notorious Panamanian law firm that has not only helped prime ministers, kings and presidents hide their money, but has also provided services to dictators, drug cartels, Mafia clans, fraudsters, weapons dealers, and regimes like North Korea or Iran.

After the revelation several heads of governments had to step down, thousands of investigations were launched, approximately one billion $ recouped. The Panama Papers proved that there is a whole parallel world offshore in which the rich and powerful enjoy the freedom to avoid not just taxes but all kinds of laws they find inconvenient.

In this Keynote, Süddeutsche Zeitung investigative journalist Frederik Obermaier reflects on the Panama Papers and their impact (arrests, changes in legislation etc.), as well as the crucial roles of whistleblowers and the need to protect them. In conversation with Max Heywood, the dialogue addresses what we learnt from The Panama Papers about political and economic power, what progress has been made against tax and dark havens, and how the Panama Papers have changed the way journalists think about and analyse tax havens.

DARK HAVENS Confronting Hidden Money & Power

#DNL15 DARK HAVENS brings together people from around the world who have been part of global investigations and leaks, have blown the whistle on corporations, been put on trial, and who have taken severe personal risks to confront hidden money and power.

15th conference of the Disruption Network Lab. Curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli. In cooperation with Transparency International.

Disruption Network Lab: Dark Havens

Twitter: @disruptberlin


Thank you for tuning in, we hope you enjoyed listening as much as we did talking! Transit Lounge Radio is 100% independently produced, and ad-free. Your generous support, event invitations and sharing to community networks will help keep the conversation free-flowing!

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#DNL15, Transparency, Panama Papers, investigative journalism, tax justice, offshore tax havens, disruption, network, Dark Havens, Disruption Network Lab, journalism, treasure islands, finance curse, offshore tour operator, Paradise Papers, Lux Leaks, whistleblower, UBS, ICIJ, OCCRP, Berlin, transit lounge, radio, podcast, conversation, Frederik Obermaier, Süddeutsche Zeitung

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