Offshore A—Z is a public repository of companies operating across major tax havens. Each company listed on Offshore A—Z is real, but its entry consists of a mix of true and false facts, generated in an attempt to guess its nature and intents.
The secretive practices of offshore finance wilfully introduce gaps in public knowledge through convoluted, obfuscatory and, potentially, malicious actions. Offshore A—Z takes a similar view of the truth - that it is not so singular, static, or valuable as to need to be upheld at all times. The project gives a form to a large amount of companies data to begin grasping the size of corporate offshore finance, while speculating on the intents of those invested and investing in it.
About the data
The data contained within Offshore A—Z comes from a number of sources.
Prior to the Panama Papers leaks, the snippets of information available on offshore companies were confined to the online registrars that tax havens keep as an empty gesture towards transparency. The registrars of a dozen tax haven were 'scraped' and records on ½ million companies obtained. Yielding varying amounts of information, and naturally full of gaps - sometimes full company details and descriptions, sometimes little more than a name - the records were combined with data from the ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks, as well as Financial Secrecy Index scores from the Tax Justice Network.
The resulting database has been mined for patterns and commonalities, with a number of algorithms trained to fill in the blanks. These associate images with each nondescript company and complete missing fields, such as its registration dates or stated aims, by analysing and extracting keywords from the company's available information and using them as a trigger to generate words and images.
The true and false information is automatically built into a web template before a Twitter bot (@offshoreAZ) announces the release of a new company, adding it to the permanent record of offshore entities.
About the interface
reappropriates the plain language of Web 2.0 templates used by the registrar of companies of most tax havens. Such templates necessarily become the only accessible incarnation of offshore finance. Similarly, each company entry on the Offshore A—Z is presented in a default template. But only at first: as the viewer keeps staring at the company, its visual character slowly changes giving way to caribbean hues and floating forms - perhaps islands of a paradisiacal archipelago - are as colourful as a caribbean summer.
A listing on Offshore A—Z does not imply or suggest that any entity has broken the law. The nature of the data collected, and the legal frameworks that obfuscate it make it impossible to state the true aims of any of the companies listed.