Demystification Committee

Offshore A–Z

Offshore A—Z is a digital repository of companies operating across major tax havens. Each company listed on Offshore A—Z is real,but its online entry consists of collected data and speculative statements generated by us. This exploits the gaps in information and inscrutability of offshore companies to guess on their possible nature and intent.

The project gives a form to a large amount of companies data to begin grasping the size of corporate offshore finance, while speculating on the intents of those invested and investing in it.

Prior to the Panama Papers leak, the snippets of information available on offshore companies were confined to the online registrars that tax havens keep as an empty gesture towards transparency. Records on ½ million companies, and naturally full of gaps, were obtained from a dozen registrars and compiled into a single database.

The resulting database has been mined for patterns and commonalities, with a number of algorithms trained to fill in the blanks. These associate images with each nondescript company and complete missing fields, such as its registration dates or stated aims, by analysing and extracting keywords from the company’s available information and using them as a trigger to generate words and images.

The true and false information is automatically built into a web template before a Twitter bot (@offshoreAZ) announces the release of a new company, adding it to the permanent record of offshore entities.

Offshore A—Z reappropriates the plain language of Web 2.0 templates used by the registrar of companies of most tax havens. Such templates necessarily become the only accessible incarnation of offshore finance. Similarly, each company entry on the Offshore A—Z is presented in a default template. But only at first: as the viewer keeps staring at the company, its visual character slowly changes giving way to caribbean hues and floating forms.