The Laundromat: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite

tags: finance, crime

This is likely the definitive account of The Panama Papers – the massive data leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. It also covers some other sensational data leaks, like SwissLeaks and Offshore Leaks.

It’s good, no doubt. But it’s confusing, and there’s no real way around that. There are just so many names that it’s utterly impossible to keep track of them all. I tried, but eventually the Tidal Wave of Proper Nouns just washes over you, and there’s no way to stay afloat. You see name after name, and just think, “Well, I’m sure he did something illegal…”

There are two larger points to the book.

  1. Banking laws make it easy for rich people to hide the fact that they own money. They do this because (1) they don’t want to be taxed on it, or (2) it connects them to illegal activities.

  2. Investigative journalism usually works, but sometimes is messy. The second half of the book concerns the ICIJ investigation, and all of its twists and turns and drama.

I’m glad I read the book. But other than the larger points, most of the details were lost on me. I understand there’s a movie, which might be easier to follow.

Book Info