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Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  797 ratings  ·  99 reviews
A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist takes us inside the world revealed by the Panama Papers, a landscape of illicit money, political corruption, and fraud on a global scale.

A hidden circulatory system flows beneath the surface of global finance, carrying trillions of dollars from drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises. This network
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 21st 2017 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2017)
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Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-econbiz
At this writing, a lot of people are seemingly terrified of people dressed as clowns, yet are completely comfortable with people dressed as lawyers or accountants. I put it to you that this is unreasonable because, as far as I know, no clown has ever looted a pension fund for widows and orphans of coal miners (Kindle location 909), nor has any member of the red-nose-and-floppy-shoes crowd ever caused the suicide of a small businessman by committing insurance fraud (location 3769). These tragedie ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
(3.5) Mostly a recap of the most prominent clients of Mossack Fonseca

When the book got closest to narrative was where it was best: the contact with John Doe, internal tension within the ICIJ, how to coordinate hundreds of journalists from around the world, make the data available and searchable for all of them, and still keep the story under wraps. It's amazing they did as well as they did. (And fortunate that Wikileaks didn't get ahold of the data sooner, though John Doe apparently reached out
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read book. It reads like a suspense novel. If you want to learn how not to pay your taxes, this is a book for you. It seems that the rich from all over the world are doing this. Whether it's thru shell companies or art work. As one person put it, he was more worried about his wife finding out then the tax man. This book is a great read.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I am aware that money laundering goes on. When I think of this I instantly do think of Panama as the first place followed by the Caribbean next. Yet, I haven't thought to much about "business laundering". There is a huge "secret" network of corporations that manage the purchasing, selling, paperwork, logistics, etc. If you want to chance the IRS not knowing your true financial worth then you might go seeking one of these corporations.

Mr. Bernstein takes readers into the dark underbelly of this
Kevin Doyle
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book. I am under few enough illusions about how capitalism has pillaged the planet and brought it to edge of ruin, BUT that said this book opens up the reader to organised financial corruption at a level and scale that is truly staggering. The book is very well structured and comprehensive, as well as being easy to read. I put it aside a few times just to have a break from the excesses of greed depicted in its pages. But it puts much in perspective, not least the huge and growin ...more
Joe Tauzer
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
ICIJ is the organization we have to thank for compiling most of the data from the hacks. They have a great website which I recommend you look in to and try your alma mater in the search bar. I found my former college along with many of the colorful characters in this book, in the ranks entities who own offshore accounts.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This would be an interesting book if it were fiction but it is a powerful book because it is fact. This is a meticulously researched and well-written story of the complexities of the secret financial economy that exists for the rich, powerful and corrupt. It was an eye opener for me. ... a sobering view of how the world really works.
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the triumphant conclusion to Obermayer’s The Panama Paper’s published in 2016. Then, Obermayer brought the files to ICIJ, or the International Consortium of Investigarice Journalists. The lawyers came up with stories which they mainstream media companies refused to publish at first. Journalists going through the leaked data often with little support from their editors, sometimes supporting themselves by doing odd jobs. Other journalists suffer suppression and one Maltese journalist Carua ...more
Anurag Ram Chandran
We all know about the uber rich and powerful exploiting global systems to get richer and avoid their tax responsibilities, but wow was it eye opening to see the true extent to which these crooks go to keep their wealth hidden. I've always wanted to read and understand the Panama Papers expose, and when I finally did, it did not disappoint at all. Investigative journalists should be protected at all costs - this is a must read! ...more
Matt Forbeck
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sharp Reporting

A great elucidation of the secret world of offshore accounts and money laundering. Helps to explain the kleptocracy we find ourselves living in today.
W. Whalin
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Storytelling

I selected this audiobook randomly and knew nothing about the author or the world of secret money. How do the wealthy shield their money and income from taxes with off shore accounts? How does the mafia and drug lords hide their resources? How did this secret world get started in the first place? These questions and much more are answered in SECRECY WORLD by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Jake Bernstein.

Enter the world of secret money in this book and Bernstein has do
Ginger Griffin
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Welcome to the Mos Eisley Cantina of money. Drug lords, arms traffickers, mobsters, kleptocrats, money launderers, generic billionaires, and creeps who steal from funds set up for orphans -- all enjoy anonymity (and evade taxes) in the world of off-shore shell companies. Some light was thrown on this underworld when the Panama Papers were released. But the dodges continue (and involve not just billions, but trillions, of dollars). Plenty of politicians, both left and right, take part in the big- ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is important work as it exposes something we all need to know about and provides the evidence that may lead to substantial change. That is my hope. Better read than listened to.
Riley Haas
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I think tax avoidance/evasion is the second most important issue of our time. So I wanted to be able to recommend this book highly. Alas, I can't unequivocally recommend it, though I would say it's worth reading if you are unaware, as I am, of a better book on the subject. (I'm sure it's out there, I just don't know about it. But if you do, please let me know.)
I want to get the bad stuff out of the way.
First, there's the title: you gotta think somebody involved in the publication of this book co
Jeff Lacy
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When one reads a book like SECRECY WORLD (aka LAUNDROMAT), one hopes for an engaging and enlightening, edifying read. One will not be disappointed with this account of the corporate formation business in tax havens, especially by a firm known as MOSSFOM in Panama. This firm created corporate structures to insure secrecy for individuals to evade taxes, launder money, hide wealth from spouses in the event of divorce, hide wealth nefariously obtained from their governments, hedge funds, businesses, ...more
Laura Tolomei
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Concise, fast-paced, the Secrecy World reads like a Grisham bestseller, but sadly none of it is fiction.

I'm not sure what makes me angrier: discovering the length the rich will go to hide their wealth or knowing that there's no stopping them despite all the investigations. Either way, this book airs all the dirty laundry that the extremely wealthy have tried to conceal in the most crooked schemes possible over the past 35 years.

Tax evasion, tax avoidance, tax denial, tax obliteration: you name i
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Laundromat, based on the book by Jake Bernstein
Nine out of 10

This comedy drama – listed only as drama for some obscure reason, contrary to the tone, the shades adopted by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas right from the opening scenes, surely with the director, the brilliant Steven Soderbegh determined to expose the financial scandal, but also reveal the preposterous, grotesque dimensions of the money market arrangements, which are still in place in so many states and territories (such as Del
McGrouchpants. McGrouchpants!
Helpful. Apparently the Masons are just a chatty club, the Eating Clubs of Princeton or what-not (from Slacker: "Let's put Squeaky Fromme on the one-dollar bill ... "). Like Davos, Skull & Bones, Trilateralism/Bilderbergers, you wouldn't be there to begin with, 'kay? Leave your message at the door. Put it in the drop box. We'll get right round to it! Thanks. :) ;) #yeah ...more
Alexander Douglas
In this thriller, the global villains (tax-cheats/corrupt people or companies) are set against the story heroes (journalists/tax authorities). I found the tactics and methods to be the most interesting aspects of the story. While there is something thrilling reading how money is laundered and taxes are evaded, it also brings a visceral reaction when one understands the global implications of this behavior - where institutions are undermined, journalists are intimidated, and injustice reigns.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part one of this book recounts the rise of the offshore finance industry. From Panama to BVI to Luxembourg to Switzerland, offshore companies are setup to conceal the ultimate beneficial owners, who are surreptitiously controlling these companies through a secret power of attorney with various law firms, who also act as directors to these companies. With identities obfuscated, these structures can be abused by people who would like their transactions to remain secretive for nefarious reasons.

Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book, weird read. It was fascinating yet utterly non engrossing. Took it with me to the hospital for Mackenzie's birth. ...more
Melissa Bosque
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Secrecy World reads like a fast-paced thriller with a deeply reported and intricately woven narrative. For anyone curious about this global gilded age we've arrived in and how we got here, the Secrecy World is your road map and Bernstein lays it all out. From the board rooms of Panama to the secret shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and beyond, the reader gets a crash course in how everyone from the Queen of England to multinational corporations avoid paying taxes and hide their cash. ...more
Bernardo L
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book gives very good insight into the Panama papers situation.
It has so much information about so many different cases it might be difficult to retain it all, but I read it and really want to do it more times
For everyone that has the slightest interest in this subject this book is an absolute must read. If you just want to understand how tax evasian/avoidance happens in this world and how money travels the globe unrevealed, this is the book to read.
Hope the reiew helps,
David Akeroyd
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime
This is an important and interesting topic but the book doesn't do a great job getting that across most of the time. I don't think it is particularly well-written or that it does a very good job at getting beyond the huge barrage of numbers and account names to really tell you the stories. ...more
Alexander Bell
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Secrecy World is a book based on the revelations of The Panama Papers. It was only reasonable to expect someone to write a book that collated many of the stories that were featured in the newspapers at the time. What you might think you’d get in this book is a cohesive picture of what the Panama Papers had to tell us, but what you end up with is something less than that.

Journalists like an angle and Jake Bernstein has decided that his angle is going to be human interest. What this means is that
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I badly wanted to love this book. I wanted to toot my digital trumpet and type EAT THE RICH, fortified with paragraphs of evidence of the nefarious dealings of the super wealthy...

...and to be fair, this book does deliver enough reasons to lay out the silverware. While there is no SPECTRE-like conspiracy, we read of a large number of grifters who coalesced to form a somewhat rickety, yet often successful, world of secrecy. Politicians in havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Niue, Delaware
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, business
_The Panama Papers_ focuses on the treasure trove of documents from Mossack Fonseca, a major player in the secrecy world. One where money can buy you obfuscation in order to hide your profits from tax collectors (and in many cases former spouses). The data dump opens up that world, giving it form. It also demonstrates the data journalist as a person that can unlock that which people in power seek to hide.

From the data, the author has tied together what has been found and how a multitude of journ
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
The Panama Papers revealed the worst fears of our descent into plutocracy, as not only do the gains from interest outpace that of labor, but the top 0.01% have an atrocious estimated tax evasion rate of 30%. “Smart money” hemorrhages from nation's’ potential tax bases to offshore tax havens with strict banking secrecy laws. Panama, BVI, Bahamas, Luxembourg, Switzerland… are tax loopholes masquerading as nations, turning a blind eye to the merchants of destruction: drug traffickers, arms dealers, ...more
Bobby Thym
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Maybe I've read Heart of Darkness too many times because I have always thought that we Americans don't really know what other Americans are doing in other countries. Then, we, in our innocence, are totally surprised when we encounter blowback from some "obscure" foreign entity. We get snippets from the press, but most of us are like Sisyphus simply rolling the rock of our daily lives up the hill.

So, the question emerges, "As an informed citizen, do you REALLY want to pull the curtain back to se
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a detailed, in-depth investigative look at the former secretive world of off-shore banking, shell companies, and tax havens. This world appeals to and works for people and companies with enormous wealth who don't want to pay taxes, to those who don't want others to know about their money, and to those involved in all sorts of illegal activities. For the first two groups, there is nothing illegal about their motives and the process. However, because of the privacy and secrecy that used to ...more
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Pulitzer Prize-winner Jake Bernstein was a senior reporter on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that broke the Panama Papers story. He has written for the Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Guardian, ProPublica, and Vice, among others, and has appeared on the BBC, NBC, CNN, PBS and This American Life. He is the coauthor of Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the Americ ...more

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44 likes · 11 comments
“Around 6.8 million files came from Appleby, a Bermuda-based offshore legal service provider. Appleby and its data were different from Mossack Fonseca and the Panana Papers. Whereas the upstart Panamanians were entrepreneurial risk-takers, their files filled with garrulously compromising emails, Appleby was the establishment. The firm had been founded in 1898 by Major Reginald Woodfield Appleby, who later became a commander of the Order of the British Empire.” 0 likes
“However, Putin's tilt toward Trump appeared to have been motivated by something deeper than a desire for revenge against Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. Putin and Trump shared a similar zero-sum worldview and a penchant for operating in the shadows. Each man viewed the idea of a free press with contempt. They both believed that financial interests should be passed down to their children to create family dynasties ... Trump and Putin are both conversant with the secrecy world, practiced hands at using anonymous companies to wall off their activities and keep their business affairs secret. During the campaign, Trump reported that he had 378 individual Delaware companies, but the full extent of his business dealings remains hidden.” 0 likes
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