It is the largest tax robbery in the history of Europe. A group of bankers, lawyers and traders plundered at least eleven countries for years – their loot: €55bn. CORRECTIV and 18 media partners have investigated for a year to expose the inner workings of this scheme. We have dived into 180.000 pages of leaked documents, met with insiders and posed as billionaires in the City of London.

London, 7 August 2018: the sting

They’ve turned the AC in the hotel suite down to 18ᵒC. Any hint of sweat on their foreheads would betray them. They can’t appear nervous. That’s how they want their guest to feel.

The air is heavy with the smell of orchids arranged in a crystal vase, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot stands cooling in an ice bucket on the low glass table.

The spectacular glass-wall vista on the 37th floor of the European Union’s tallest building, the Shard, takes in many of London’s most famous sights: the River Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and to the east, Canary Wharf. The glass fronts of the City, London’s financial district, reflect the sun’s rays. A glance down to street level makes one’s head spin. Without the telescope thoughtfully provided by the hotel, the people appear absolutely tiny, like an army of worker ants scurrying about their business. But the two men aren’t here for the view.

Nor are they part of this world of the super-rich. They’re here to understand how it feels to look down not only on London but an entire continent. They’re here to figure out the methods and mentalities of the bankers, brokers, lawyers and investors who have plundered billions from the treasuries of Europe.

There are five cameras in the set-up. One is concealed in a designer label shopping bag seemingly carelessly left on the table. Another is inside a hollowed out book on a shelf. Three more are strategically placed to record what is about to happen next. All pointed at the one empty place on the sofa.

The phone rings at 1:51pm, nine minutes early. Their assistant from Singapore says: “He’s here.”

Behind The Scenes

Two reporters pose as billionaires looking for investment opportunities and thereby prove: Europe’s largest tax scam goes on. This is how they prepared for the undercover meeting with an investment banker, brought together journalists from twelve European countries and made an insider talk on camera. Plus: Deep insights into the workings of the cum ex machinery and other perspectives on the cum-ex-complex.

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Making of CumEx-Files

27 min

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The Insider

72 min

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The Whistleblower

4 min

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The Unheard

3 min

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The Lawyer

3 min

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The Politician

4 min

Publications

The Cooperation

38 reporters, 19 newsrooms, 12 countries. Together, they digged through 180.000 pages of documents. Here, team members share their perspectives on cross-country collaboration. What it means in practice and how they made it happen.

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Trailer

1 min

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The Technology

2 min

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The Motivation

2 min

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Die Communication

3 min

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The Cooperation

3 min

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The Findings

2 min

The Team

oliver schröm ist journalist im cum ex files team

Oliver Schröm

CORRECTIV, Editor-in-chief

Oliver is one of the founders of the investigation The CumEx Files. He authored ten investigative books, including bestsellers on scandals in intelligence, politics and healthcare. In 2010, he established the investigative unit of stern magazine and was its head until he moved to ARD investigative program Panorama. He first reported about CumEx in 2014 for stern magazine. He revealed the extent of the scandal for Panorama magazine. His award-winning investigations and his growing collection of files forms the basis for the CumEx Files.

christian-salewski

Christian Salewski

Panorama/NDR, Reporter

Reporter for Panorama, contributor to DIE ZEIT and – after following the tax fraud for two year – one of the masterminds behind the CumEx-Files. For Christian, a good story begins with a crazy idea. Why not pose as a billionaire to prove that European states are still being robbed by traders? Christian worked in Israel and with ProPublica New York. He is the founder the Startup Follow the Money. His work won numerous awards. A main cum ex suspect called him “the German Michael Moore”. Christian took it as a compliment.

olaya argueeso leitet das cum ex files team

Olaya Argüeso

El Confidencial, Data journalist

Joined CORRECTIV in October 2018. Data journalist and trainer, with a long experience in covering the economy and finance, which was her beat when working for the most important radio network in Spain, Cadena SER. With a humanistic background, Olaya has discovered a new passion: coding, which, combined with traditional leg-work, she sees as a very powerful tool for taking investigative journalism to the next level. While in Berlin for the investigation, she never misses the chance to visit the flea market at the Bodemuseum and wander around.

Frederik Richter

CORRECTIV, Deputy editor-in-chief

Deputy chief-editor of CORRECTIV. To Frederik, a good investigation crosses borders. Between countries, but also between business and politics. He is investigating how corrupt practices by German and European corporates are undermining democracy around the world. Prior to joining CORRECTIV, he worked as a freelance journalist as well as with Reuters for ten years in the Middle East and South East Asia. Frederik listens to the losers of a business deal, reads financial reports from the footnotes upwards and like most of his colleagues here suffers from being addicted to reading files.

manuel daubenberger ist journalist im cum ex files team

Manuel Daubenberger

Panorama/ARD, Reporter

Studied Political Science, Communication and Sinology and was a trainee at Norddeutsche Rundfunk. Since 2014, he works as a reporter for tv productions such as Panorama and extra 3 as well as for the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT. Together with other journalists, he won several awards for his reporting on finance and science. Since the start of the cum ex investigation he stopped reading books for fun – because he spends most his time reading documents.

anne michel ist journalistin im cum ex files team

Anne Michel

Le Monde, Journalist

Became an investigative journalist with Le Monde after years spent chronicling finance and its dysfunctions, particularly during the 2008 global crisis. Participated in ICIJ’s major investigations such as the Panama papers or Paradise papers and the Daphne Project led by Forbidden Stories, dedicated to continuing the work of murdered or censored journalists. The investigation led by CORRECTIV reminded her of a detective novel with rogue traders and corrupt bankers. Likes economic and financial topics, especially when it comes to tax havens and offshore secrets.

Tom Koerkemeier

Reuters, Journalist

Joined Reuters in 2010. After reporting on financial markets in Frankfurt and the EU in Brussels he moved to Berlin to cover Germany’s financial policy. Together with colleagues, he won the German Journalist award. Likes scuba diving and swiss literature.

sylke gruhnwald ist journalistin im cum ex files team

Sylke Gruhnwald

Republik, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Co-Editor-in-Chief at Swiss media startup Die Republik. Her network reaches from Russia to southern Africa, and her knowledge of tax gaps would make her a good mafia leader. She grew up in Munich, studied business administration and Chinese in Vienna, and worked for the Economist. In 2012, she built up and led a data team at the Swiss daily NZZ and moved on to the Swiss Public Broadcaster in 2014. For The CumEx Files, she had to dig out long forgotten knowledge of tax law: The last time she used it was during her studies.

stefan melichar ist journalist im cum ex files team

Stefan Melichar

Addendum, Journalist

Works as an investigative journalist at the Austrian platform Addendum. He focuses on white collar crime and corruption. Stefan contributed to Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks and the Panama Papers. Is a fan of inspector Columbo – and his special way of asking the key questions.

Felix Rohrbeck

ZEIT, Editor

Editor at the financial section of DIE ZEIT. Likes investigative and crossmedia journalism. He was a trainee at the German public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk and worked as an editor for business publications such as Financial Times Deutschland and Capital. Co- founder of the German version of Follow the Money. Found it funny that the cum ex traders used Snapchat a lot – a messenger service that is popular among teenagers. The reason: Snapchat messages are deleted after a few seconds.

John O'Donnell

Reuters, Journalist

Is a European Correspondent with Reuters. For five years, he had a front row seat in Brussels as the euro economic crisis unfolded, moving to Germany as Greece teetered on the brink of quitting the currency. He reported widely about financial crime, including the laundering of Russian money through Latvia. Before, John worked with the Sunday Times in London. The CORRECTIV project gave him fresh perspectives from journalists all around Europe, helping explain a scam many bankers had hoped would go unnoticed.

jeremie baruch ist journalist im cum ex files team

Jeremie Baruch

Le Monde, Reporter

Works for Le Monde since 2003 and on tax havens and fiscal matters for about 4 years now. Ironically, his banking counselor has been avoiding him since then. In between investigations, he cleans-up spreadsheets and turns them into visualisations.

lars bove ist journalist im cum ex files team

Lars Bové

De Tijd, Journalist

Journalist and coordinator of investigative journalism at the Belgian newspaper De Tijd. Lars began his reporting career in 2003 as an investigative journalist for the Belgian magazine Humo. He specialized in criminal cases, justice, police, secret services, financial crime, fraud and politics and unveiled several scandals in Belgium, forcing the government to resign. He participated in ICIJ investigations such as Luxemburg Leaks. Lars also wrote a bestseller “De Geheimen van de Staatsveiligheid”, a book about the Belgian secret service, and teaches investigative journalism.

Niels Fastrup

Danmarks Radio(DR), Journalist

Studied philosophy at the University of Copenhagen but ended up as an investigative journalist. Since 2013 at DR, national television in Denmark, focused on revealing the scandals and hidden truths of organized crime, political elites, big business, and finance. Started on this story in 2015 when his boss told him: find out who robbed Denmark of 1,7 billion euros!

Ruth Fend

CORRECTIV, Deputy editor-in-chief

Prior to joining CORRECTIV in September 2018, Ruth managed to stay away from massive piles of paper and data sticks. Working in Financial Times Deutschland’s editorial and commentary team, her job was to explain complex issues. For three years, she reported from Beijing, China. As Editor-in-Chief of Business Punk, NEON and Nido, her aim was to pull people into stories in such a way that they can’t stop reading. Even if they are 55.000 characters long and carry unwieldy terms like Cum Ex and Cum Cum.

John Hansen

Politiken, Data journalist

Investigative editor at Politiken, Denmark’s largest daily newspaper, since 2010. Previously worked at Jyllands-Posten. Member of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), participated in LuxLeaks, SwissLeaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations. Member and co-founder of the European Investigative Collaboration (EIC).

Knut Kainz Rognerud

SVT, Reporter

One of Sweden’s most experienced and renowned authors and business reporters. Since 2010, he is an investigative reporter at the Swedish public television. Moreover, Knut works as a senior commentator for the news department SVT Nyheter. Before, he was an investigative business reporter at Sweden’s largest daily, Dagens Nyheter. In 2004, Knut was awarded the Golden Shovel, Sweden’s most important investigative award. His documentary about parking fraud has been nominated for the Golden Nymph award in Monte Carlo.

Jennifer Lange

NDR Info, Journalist

Works as a business reporter at the German public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Hamburg. Doesn’t need a camera to be a TV reporter – in urgent situations, a smartphone will do. Her family used to call her “Karla Kolumna”, a reference to the famous reporter in a German children’s book. Just like that character, Lange is always talking quickly and always after a good story. Her favorite part of working on The CumEx Files: transforming the many interviews into scenes and filling them with life by adding music and background sound.

Tanja Nyrup Madsen

Danmarks Radio(DR), Executive editor

Has 20 years of experience in radio, tv and print media in Denmark. She founded, hosted end edited the award-winning investigative weekly radio-magazine P1Dokumentar of the Danish public broadcaster. For the past two years, she has been the managing editor at P1Morgen, a daily news and current affairs program. She worked as the vice-president of FUJ, the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism and founded and organized the Danish prize for investigative journalism FUJ Prisen. Has a soft spot for catchy rhythms and has only missed only one Copenhagen Jazz Festival since 1990.

Anne-Lise Bouyer

CORRECTIV, Head of Tech Team

Leader of CORRECTIV’s tech team. She manages a team of programmers that built the product CrowdNewsroom which enables CORRECTIV to analyze thousands of documents and data points that citizens contribute. For the CumEx-Files she coordinated the creation of the platform and tools that ensured that the international team was able to dig into the data and communicate safely. Before that, she previously co-founded Journalism++, the datajournalism agency behind the award-winning investigation The Migrants’ Files in which journalists from 15 countries investigated the human and financial costs of Fortress Europe.

Marta Orosz

CORRECTIV, Reporter

Marta´s investigation on sexual harassment at Germany´s biggest public broadcaster WDR not only caused a stir, but also prompted an internal investigation at the organisation. Most of the time she works on economy and trade issues, for example investigating shortages of life-saving medicine in the EU internal market or on the previously planned transatlantic free trade agreement (TTIP) between the EU and the US. She also keeps an eye on populists´ tactics and their rise in European politics. Before CORRECTIV, she worked as a Germany correspondent for the Hungarian public radio.

Karsten Polke-Majewski

ZEIT ONLINE, Leads investigative team

Leads the investigative/data team of ZEIT ONLINE. Before, he worked five years as ZEIT ONLINE’s deputy editor in chief and as a business editor. Likes to hike unbeaten tracks because it resembles journalism: You follow a path that is barely visible, and sometimes you feel lost. But in reward, you get the best view.

Alexandra Rojkov

Freie Journalistin, Editor

Lived in six countries, quit four study programs and now works as a writer and reporter for German media outlets such as DIE ZEIT and GEO. Her word received numerous awards, including one from CNN for outstanding international reporting. In 2016, she was named one of Europe’s best journalists under 30 years old by Forbes Magazine. Things she did for a good story: Hike the Jordanian desert, dive in a frozen lake and drink brandy with 80 percent alcohol. None of that was as hard as reading through hundreds of CumEx file pages.

giulio rubino ist journalist im cum ex files team

Giulio Rubino

CORRECTIV, Journalist

Investigative reporter and one of the founders of the Italian centre for investigative journalism IRPI. He collaborates with CORRECTIV since 2015, and has done several stories with them, such as The Hidden Fleet, The ‘Ndrangheta Dutch flower power, and Mafia in Africa. For his work, he was awarded with the Best International Organised Crime Report award and was shortlisted for the Data Journalism award. Most of the people he interviewed for this project had never heard of cum ex. Instead, they wondered why he was suddenly speaking Latin.

Thomas G. Svaneborg

Danmarks Radio(DR), Reporter

Reporter for DR Nyheder. He has been working with the financial sector for 20 years and until now written two books about the financial crisis. He knows he’s working on a good story when he finds himself reading documents in his pyjama until his kids come home in the late afternoon.

Tom Sims

Reuters, Reporter

Tom is a correspondent with Reuters based in Frankfurt. He was formerly with the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. For eight years, he reported as a correspondent from Hong Kong. For him, the files made learning Mandarin seem like a piece of cake by comparison.

eric smit ist journalist im cum ex files team

Eric Smit

Follow the Money, Editor-in-chief

Co-founder and editor in chief of the Dutch platform for investigative journalism Follow the Money (FTM.nl). In his first life he chased balls on squash courts for money but never won a big title. He wrote a few books that did well (so called best sellers) and was decorated as the Dutch journalist of the year in 2017. He’s the father of two daughters (identical twins) who like him most when he pretends to be the singer of a rock band.

Hannu Sokala

YLE, Reporter

Investigative reporter for the National Broadcasting Corporation YLE. Is especially intrigued by how money walks and talks. He has made current affairs television documentaries on transfer pricing and tax avoidance, market rate manipulation, austerity policies, the unconventional monetary policy of recent years – and violence in ice-hockey. Siberian huskies take his mind off work; when the team pulls the sled into the silent winter forest it is easy to forget everything else.

maxime vaudona ist journalist im cum ex files team

Maxime Vaudano

Le Monde, Reporter

Is a reporter for the French newspaper Le Monde. He fell in love with tax evasion and dirty money while working on the Panama Papers, in 2016, but he still doesn’t have his own shell company. He consoles himself eating data and red pepper.

Simon Wörpel

CORRECTIV, Data journalist

Is a data journalist with CORRECTIV. Digs in data and documents for stories. He also develops technical tools that support investigative journalists. Before joining CORRECTIV, he studied journalism, political science and economy in Cologne and worked as a freelance journalist and web developer. Tries to find the story hidden in every excel sheet – or a new musical idea on his upright bass and synthesizers.

ola westerberg ist journalist im cum ex files team

Ola Westerberg

TT News Agency, Journalist

Award-winning investigative journalist working for TT News Agency in Stockholm. Previously a foreign editor, he took part in many cross-border investigations with other media organizations. Ola works on international corruption and other crimes, terrorism, foreign policy, security issues, armed conflict, human rights, refugees and foreign aid. He was part of the Paradise Papers investigation and participated in exposing corruption by Swedish companies in several former Soviet union countries.

Benjamin Schubert

CORRECTIV, Head of Design

Vor 17 Jahren crackte Benjamin seine erste Photoshop-Version. Heute ist er Mediengestalter, Kommunikationsdesigner und die multimediale Allzweckwaffe bei CORRECTIV. Benjamin verantwortet das visuelle Erscheinungsbild und streitet sich mit den Reportern über die sogenannte „User Experience”. Er arbeitete im Verlagswesen, in der Marktforschung, im digitalen Marketing und gründete in Berlin einen Coworking Space für Künstler. Wegen Zeitmangels musste er sich das Videomaterial der CumEx-Files in doppelter Geschwindigkeit ansehen – und überlegt, diese Arbeitsweise beizubehalten.

Ivo Mayr

CORRECTIV, Photographer

Wenn CORRECTIV mit einem Whistleblower beim Maskenbildner ist, um ihn vor einem TV-Interview unkenntlich zu machen, dann hält Ivo das für die Nachwelt auf der Kamera fest. Eine willkommene Abwechslung für jemanden, der unterhalb von Schloss Neuschwanstein zur Schule ging und es bei jedem Heimatbesuch aufs Neue fotografiert, zusammen mit Horden an Japanern. Ivo hat Fotografie in Dortmund studiert und in diversen Magazinen veröffentlicht. Seine Arbeiten wurden national und international ausgezeichnet und ausgestellt. Neben seiner Arbeit für CORRECTIV arbeitet er zusammen mit Architektur-Studenten der RWTH Aachen an der visuellen Umsetzung ihrer Projekte und als freier Fotograf.

Jonathan Sachse

CORRECTIV, Reporter

Reporter at CORRECTIV. He loves to dive deep into financial reports and to use new tools of storytelling. WIth the help of hundreds of citizens he unveiled the financial situation of more than 400 regional savings banks in Germany. This investigation won the German Reporterpreis 2016. Jonathan has been working at CORRECTIV from its very beginning and helped to develop the CrowdNewsroom. Before, he worked as a freelance journalist forZEIT ONLINE, Spiegel Online, and the German public broadcasters, among others. His dream: a board came or a music video telling the story of one of his investigations.

Justus von Daniels

CORRECTIV, Reporter

Reporter and head of CORRECTIV.Lokal, a network for local journalism. When sitting down in front of the door at the non-public TTIP negotiations he was shown the door by security staff, but got negotiators to talk to him. His route to journalism was also not straight. He studied received an award for his PhD on Jewish law. He did his Postdoc in Princeton and New York before working for DIE ZEIT and Tagesspiegel as a reporter. His law degree certainly helped him dig through the CumEx Files.

Mads Ellesøe

DR, Journalist

Journalist and director at the department of International Documentaries at Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Mads has made documentaries on issues all over the world and his work has been shown on more than 20 national broadcasters. He can not enter Morocco again, having been detained at night by the Moroccan intelligence service for doing critical journalism.

Siem Eikelenboom

Follow the Money, Reporter

Senior investigative journalist who started his career at a regional newspaper, worked 12 years for Dutch newsprograms and 10 years for the Dutch Financial Daily. He was part of the Panama Papers-team and as such won several awards, for example the Pulitzer Prize and the Citi Journalistic Excellence award. Thinks The CumEx Files show what journalism is really about: Not reading mere summaries, but studying the files themselves until late night to discover what is between the lines.

Willem Konrad

Panorama/ARD, Filmmaker

Willem is a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Hamburg, Germany. After receiving degrees in media and sports science from the universities of Bochum and Madrid in 2007, he made his way into journalism as a documentary filmmaker for the public broadcaster ARD/NDR, covering local and international stories. Today he mostly works for TV programs Panorama and Die Box. His work involves conception, realisation and post production of documentaries and newly developed TV formats.

Anna Miller

Republik, Freelance journalist

Freelance journalist and writer focusing on reportages and profiles. Works for the Magazine of Süddeutsche Zeitung, DIE ZEIT, Neue Zürcher Zeitung und Republik. Likes long interviews and document piles made from paper.

Published Oct. 18th, 2018. Updated and redesigned Jul. 2nd, 2021

Project Management: Anne-Lise Bouyer (Technik), Frederik Richter, Christian Salewski, Oliver Schröm (Leitung)
Investigation: Manuel Daubenberger, Karsten Polke-Majewski, Felix Rohrbeck, Christian Salewski, Oliver Schröm
Text: Ruth Fend
Design: Benjamin Schubert
Videos: Benjamin Schubert, Marta Orosz
Photos: Ivo Mayr, Willem Konrad, Greg Tockner
Development: Simon Wörpel, Steffen Kühne, Lisa Quatmann (Contribution), Benjamin Schubert (Redesign)
Editor: Frederik Richter
Contribution: Alexandra Rojkov (Text), Justus von Daniels, Madison Lang (Übersetzung)
Social Media: Luise Lange, Jonathan Sachse