The application, set to go live on 9 May, has been created using more than 11 million documents which were leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and exposed how institutions, politicians and public officials around the world use offshore companies to avoid paying tax.
The announcement follows that of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). On Tuesday, the regulator revealed it has asked a further 44 financial services firms to disclose any involvement in the tax-evasive practises uncovered in the leak, on top of the 20 businesses it originally canvassed.
Describing the database as “the largest ever release of secret offshore companies and the people behind them”, the ICIJ said the searchable information will include companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, such as Hong Kong, and will expose links to people in more than 200 countries and territories.
In a statement on its website posted on Wednesday, the US-based charity said users will be able to search through the data and “visualise the networks” around thousands of offshore entities.
“The Panama Papers investigation revealed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and other politicians as well as criminals and celebrities. It exposed the role of big banks in facilitating secrecy and tax evasion and avoidance.
“The largest ever release of secret offshore companies and the people behind them”
“And it showed how companies and individuals blacklisted in the US and elsewhere for their links to terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes were able to do business through offshore jurisdictions,” the ICIJ said.
Not a “data dump”
However, the US-based non-profit organisation was keen to point out that the database was not a “data dump” and will only display “basic corporate information”, confirming that it will not include details of bank accounts, financial transactions or emails.
The political fallout from the Panama Papers exposé began on 6 April when Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson temporarily resigned - just days after the leak revealed that he used to own a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company that now belongs to his wife.
Other countries have also launched their own investigations into the tax arrangements of the rich and powerful.
Meanwhile, British prime minister David Cameron has been forced to defend his family’s tax affairs, after it emerged that he pocketed £30,000 ($43,620, €38,657) from an offshore Bahama-based fund set up by his late father Ian Cameron. He later described the fund as “entirely standard practice” and “not tax avoidance.”
The leak has resulted in several nations announcing measures aimed at increasing transparency and tackling tax evasion.
A week after the scandal broke, Cameron revealed that all crown dependencies and overseas territories will now provide company ownership data to UK tax and law enforcement authorities. He also unveiled a new tax evasion law, making companies criminally liable for employees who aid tax evasion.
Last week, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar joined Europe’s five largest economies — Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain — and 17 other jurisdictions in signing up to a confidential beneficial ownership register which would automatically share information on the ultimate owners of companies.