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Netflix unfolds ‘The Panama Papers’

MUMBAI: The story of thousands of secret bank accounts, a long list of the rich and powerful, and an insane accumulation of wealth hiding in plain sight just beyond the reach of governments gripped the world earlier this year when German investigative journalists Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer broke the story and led the team that uncovered The Panama Papers.

Now internet TV network Netflix and John Wells Productions are teaming up to tell the story behind The Panama Papers and the two journalists who, working through an anonymous source known as John Doe, cracked open an unprecedented torrent of lies, diversions and information that revealed how the wealthy hid billions of dollars offshore through a little known law firm in Panama.

The work, released in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), set off an international firestorm, triggering the resignation of heads of state, judicial investigations in over a dozen countries and a global debate on just how easy it has become for the wealthy to avoid taxes, game the system and evade the law.

Netflix has acquired exclusive rights to ‘Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the World’s Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money’, a recently released book by Obermaier and Obermayer. It will work with producers Wells and Claire Rudnick Polstein and executive producer Zach Studin of John Wells Productions to bring to life the dramatic story in a feature film.

Marina Walker, ICIJ deputy director, and Gerard Ryle, who leads the ICIJ’s headquarters staff in Washington D.C., and oversaw the more than 400 journalists in 76 countries on the Panama Papers, are also on-board to collaborate on the film.

“We are confident that between the expert investigative work of Obermaier and Obermayer, the only journalists in touch directly with John Doe, the ICIJ, and the master storytelling of John Wells Productions, we will be able to deliver a gripping tale that will deliver the same type of impact as the The Panama Papers when they were first revealed on the world’s front pages,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

John Wells Productions president of features Rudnick Polstein said, “We could not be more excited to be working with Netflix on this project. They have an excellent track record of producing top notch filmmaking and together, we are very much looking forward to getting started on shedding light on one of the most compelling news stories in recent memory.”

“It all started with a ‘ping’, when John Doe contacted us. That relationship and the work that came out of it grew to become the biggest data leak in history, and by far the biggest collaboration of journalists the world has ever seen, with over 400 journalists ultimately participating in this investigation. We are proud that our newspaper was the starting point for this story which grew to be something monumental,” commented Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer.

“Panama Papers is one of the biggest economic and political stories in contemporary journalism, with an impact that resonated around the globe at a time of financial anxiety. We are thrilled to align ourselves with two leading names in contemporary filmmaking, John Wells Productions and Netflix, to tell the story of how it was put together against immense odds. Four hundred reporters, some working at great personal risk in dangerous places, were led by a scrappy team of investigative reporters in a small Washington media nonprofit. They made world powers — including political leaders and regulators — take notice and force change. That this story will be told in another compelling way is exciting and meaningful,” commented Marina Walker and Gerard Ryle from the ICIJ.