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This Australian software firm helped join the dots on Panama Papers

panama papers Updated: Apr 05, 2016 21:23 IST
Panama Papers

The logo of software company Nuix can be seen in their office located in central Sydney, Australia.(REUTERS)

Software produced by a little-known Australian firm has helped journalists piece together news leads from the mountains of data found in the contents of the Panama Papers, one of the biggest document leaks in history.

Sydney-based Nuix Pty Ltd donated its document analysis programme to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to sift through the millions of leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The Panama Papers include 2.6 terabytes of data including emails, images, PDFs and other documents and raise questions about the financial arrangements of high profile politicians and public figures through the use of offshore companies.

“What we’ve done is enabled the ICIJ to do what they couldn’t do in probably months or years,” Nuix vice president Angela Bunting told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Read: Governments face the heat as Panama Papers make the world tremble

By using the software, the Washington-based ICIJ was able to make millions of scanned documents, some decades old, text-searchable and help its network of journalists cross reference Mossack Fonseca’s clients across these documents.

The massive leak has prompted global investigations into suspected illegal activities by the world’s wealthy and powerful. Mossack Fonseca, the firm at the centre of the leaks , denies any wrongdoing.

The use of advanced document and data analysis technology shows the growing importance of technology’s role in helping journalists make better sense of increasingly bigger news discoveries.

Employees of software company Nuix sit in their office located in central Sydney. (REUTERS)

Read: Panama papers in numbers: Countries implicated, companies involved

Started 10 years ago by a software developer who spent his university days figuring out ways to simplify email, Nuix says it now sells its wares in 65 countries to a client list that includes the United Nations, the United States Secret Service and numerous government departments and law enforcement agencies.

“We’re being used in some very unusual areas of the world,” Bunting said, adding that Nuix software is used to investigate child pornography rings, people trafficking and high-end tax evasion.

The company is privately owned and intentionally kept itself from knowing the contents of the millions of documents the ICIJ scoured using Nuix software. A Nuix consultant provided advice to ICIJ about hardware and workflow based on equivalent scenarios rather than specific knowledge of the data.

“It’s how most of our business is conducted,” said Bunting.

“We deal with many of the law enforcement and government agencies around the world. We can’t know anything of what they’re doing.”

Read: Panama Paper leaks: Amitabh Bachchan denies link with offshore companies