PANAMA: FTI Consulting has been named in a database containing information about offshore entities obtained through the Panama Papers, which has been dubbed the largest data leak ever.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the database on Monday. The database lists FTI as an intermediary, which ICIJ defines as "a go-between for someone seeking an offshore corporation and an offshore service provider — usually a law firm or a middleman that asks an offshore service provider to create an offshore firm for a client."
The database claims FTI’s Hong Kong office served as an intermediary to three offshore entities whose jurisdiction was in the British Virgin Islands: Turner Overseas Limited, which has been dissolved; Asia Cybertech Group Limited, which defaulted; and Global Applied Technologies Finance Limited, which was still active at the time the database information was leaked. The data in the database is current through the end of 2015.
PRWeek confirmed FTI Consulting was the intermediary named by cross-referencing the address listed in the database with information on FTI's website. Aside from a strategic communications unit, FTI also has corporate finance and restructuring; economic consulting; forensic and litigation consulting; and technology divisions.
"We have been appointed to dispose of assets, and investigate management on behalf of the companies’ creditors," a spokesperson at FTI Consulting said in an emailed statement. "We had no part in management decisions prior to our appointment to liquidate the companies for the benefit of the creditors. The companies you reference are part of the liquidation and investigation process."
FTI oversaw the liquidation of a Chinese company called Asia Aluminum in 2009, following the company’s debt-driven collapse. The agency facilitated a deal that "gave back Asia Aluminum’s bank creditors in Hong Kong 100 percent of their capital," The New York Times reported in 2013.
The ICIJ database shows three organizations under the Asia Aluminum Holdings banner as shareholders for Global Applied Technology and Asia Cybertech Group, which were both incorporated in 2000.
ICIJ points out that "there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts" and that it "does not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies, or other entities included in the Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly."
Combining information disclosed in ICIJ's 2013 Offshore Leaks investigation, the database names 314,000 offshore entities and, where possible, its owners, ICIJ deputy director Marina Walker Guevara wrote in a blog post introducing the database.
The total size of the Panama Papers is 11.5 million files leaked by an anonymous source from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating offshore entities.
The ICIJ database does not disclose raw documentation or personal information such as bank accounts, email exchanges, and financial transactions.
The anonymous source behind the information, identified as "John Doe," released a statement to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ on Friday that explained his course of action, offered to cooperate with law enforcement "to the extent I’m able," and called on the world’s governments to offer greater protection to whistleblowers.
ICIJ also published a story on Monday tying dozens of Americans to Mossack-Fonseca. They include former NFL player Leonard Gotshalk, and others with more checkered pasts including Martin Frankel and Andrew Wiederhorn.
The papers’ revelations last month resulted in the resignation of Iceland’s Prime Minister, negative publicity for UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the resignation of Spain’s Minister of Industry, and the arrest of five people accused of laundering cartel money in Uruguay.
"It is expected that Panama Papers revelations will continue to surface as regulators and ordinary citizens from around the globe probe the newly available data and find new connections that may have escaped reporters," Guevara wrote in her blog post.
Suzanne Silveira also contributed to this report. It was updated on May 11 to change the second paragraph to clarify that FTI as a whole was listed in the database, not specifically its PR unit.