Arts and Culture

The revelation of documents in 2016 that became known as the Panama Papers revealed just how widespread the use of offshore bank accounts is to illegally avoid taxes. The sheer volume of information contained in the papers was daunting for Frederik Obermaier, one of two German journalists that were initially given the information.

Obermaier will be in Louisville Monday night to talk about his work on the Panama Papers and he joined me talk about his work. You can listen to our conversation in the media player above.

Obermaier on how he received the Panama Papers information:

“One day my college Bastian Obermayer called me and he didn’t tell that much during that telephone call, but he was like, ‘Frederik we have to meet.’ And he wanted to tell me about someone calling himself John Doe who had approached him in an encrypted message asking if we were interested in secret data regarding the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. As soon as we had received the first bunch of data, we saw that this was explosive because we saw that there were several heads of state mentioned in this document. And that was the beginning of what’s now known as the Panama Papers.”

On finding a two billion dollar trail leading to Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“This was the story that kept me up for weeks. Especially as I was the one who then had to approach the Kremlin asking for comment before we published and I’ve never written an email to Vladimir Putin before so this was really a scary moment. And only a few days after I sent this email, it was Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson giving a press conference in Russia and then speaking about an information attack, war from the western media and I immediately knew what he meant. He meant our investigation and our critical questions.”

Obermaier will speak at a World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana event Monday night at 5:30 at the University of Louisville Club and Alumni Center.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.