Bastian Obermayer

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Bastian Obermayer
Born (1977-12-10) 10 December 1977 (age 41)
Rosenheim, Germany
Alma materLudwig Maximilian University of Munich
Deutsche Journalistenschule
OccupationInvestigative journalist, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Known forPanama Papers
Paradise Papers
Daphne Project

Bastian Obermayer (born 1977 in Rosenheim) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning German investigative journalist with the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and the reporter who received the Panama Papers from an anonymous source[1][2][3][4][5] as well as later on the Paradise Papers, together with his colleague Frederik Obermaier.[6] Obermayer is also author of several books, among them the best selling account of the Panama Papers: The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money[7][8] - co-authored by his colleague Frederik Obermaier.

After the Knight-Wallace Fellowship in Ann Arbor, MI, Obermayer, in 2017, helped found[9] the investigative non-profit newsroom "Forbidden Stories"[10] and co-initiated[11] with founder Laurent Richard the first project: The Daphne Project, dedicated to the killed Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Obermayer serves currently as Vice President[12] of Forbidden Stories.

Obermayer studied politics, history, and American studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich as well as journalism at the Deutsche Journalistenschule in Munich.[13]


Obermayer works on a wide range of topics. He revealed a large scandal[14][15] inside the German automotive club ADAC, which led to a complete restructuring of the biggest German club,[16] but his work has also included reporting on sexual abuse by priests,[17] illicit arms deals,[18] Nazi criminals,[19] intelligence services[20] and, mainly in the last years, corruption and tax havens. As a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Obermayer also took part in the large collaborative investigations Offshore Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks and Swiss Leaks. Together with a group of journalists from Süddeutsche Zeitung and German public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk he uncovered Germany's role in the US drone war, especially the role of the airbase in Ramstein.

Panama Papers[edit]

Obermayer was contacted at an uncertain time by an anonymous whistleblower who called themself John Doe and who thenceforth leaked more than 11.5 million internal documents created by Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca to Obermayer and his colleague Frederik Obermaier. "My life is in danger", John Doe told Obermayer. In a May 6, 2016[21] statement, John Doe cited income inequality, and said he leaked the documents "simply because I understood enough about their contents to realise the scale of the injustices they described". He added that he has never worked for any government or intelligence agency and expressed willingness to help prosecutors. The two journalists shared the documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries analyzed documents detailing the operations of the law firm. After more than a year of analysis, the first news stories were published on April 3, 2016. Only days later, Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier published their book, titled Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money, first in German[22] and later in more than 15 languages. The US investigative journalist Bob Woodward called the Panama Papers investigation a "triumph of journalism",[23] the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "the biggest leak in the history of journalism".[24] Later on Netflix announced to turn the investigation into a movie based on the book of Obermayer and Obermaier.[25][26]


After the Panama Papers were leaked, an unknown source handed over internal data from the national corporate registry of the Bahamas to Obermayer and Obermaier. The 38 gigabytes of data show that several current and former heads of state and government and high-ranking politicians, including former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes; Colombia’s former mining minister Carlos Caballero Argáez; Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar; and Angola’s vice-president, Manuel Domingos Vicente were directors, secretaries, or presidents of Bahamian companies.

Paradise Papers[edit]

Obermayer and Obermaier also initiated the Paradise Papers, which were published on November 5, 2017. The trove of 13.5 million records revealed ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump's billionaire commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, the hidden fortune of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser Stephen Bronfman and the offshore dealings of Queen Elizabeth II.

Daphne Project[edit]

In fall of 2016 Obermayer met the French investigative reporter Laurent Richard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where both spent ten months as Knight-Wallace Fellows.[27] Richard had come to Ann Arbor with the idea of founding an investigative non-profit newsroom dedicated to defeating censorship through collaborative journalism - a field in which Obermayer had useful knowledge to offer, after having started the Panama Papers. When Richard later in mid 2017 founded the organization, which he named Freedom Voices Network, he asked Obermayer to serve as Vice President. On the very day in October 2017 the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed, Richard and Obermayer decided to try to continue her work collaboratively - and so the Daphne Project emerged.

Awards and honours[edit]

Obermayer has received numerous German journalism awards, including the Theodor Wolff Prize in 2009, the Henri Nannen Prize in 2010 and 2017, the Helmut Schmidt Prize in 2013,[8] 2014[28] and 2016,[29] and the Deutscher Reporterpreis in 2016.[30] He was voted, together with his colleagues Frederik Obermayer and Vanessa Wormer, "German Journalist of the Year 2016"[31] as well as "German Business Journalist of the Year" 2014.[32]

He has also won international and US awards, such as the George Polk award,[33] the Barlett & Steele award,[34] the Perfil award[35] and also, as part of ICIJ's Panama Papers team, the Pulitzer Prize 2017 in the category "Explanatory Reporting".[5]

In 2016 Obermayer was awarded the prestigious Knight Wallace Fellowship of the University of Michigan.


  • God is Yellow
  • Brother, What Have You Done
  • Letters From the Front
  • The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money[7]


  1. ^ "'More headlines to come': Panama papers reporters - The Local". Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  2. ^ "How Reporters Pulled Off the Panama Papers, the Biggest Leak in Whistleblower History". 2016-04-04. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  3. ^ Paun, Carmen. "Journalist at center of Panama leaks: 'Nobody hiding offshore is safe' – POLITICO". Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  4. ^ "How a Cryptic Message Interested in Data Led to the Panama Papers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  5. ^ a b "The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Explanatory Reporting". Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  6. ^ Zerofsky, Elisabeth (2017-11-11). "How a German Newspaper Became the Go-To Place for Leaks Like the Paradise Papers". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  7. ^ a b "The Panama Papers". UK.
  8. ^ a b "Journalist Profile: Bastian Obermayer". International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  9. ^ "A new project will keep stories alive when journalists are killed". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  10. ^ "About Us • Forbidden Stories". Forbidden Stories. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  11. ^ Rundfunk, Carolin Hasenauer, Bayerischer (2018-04-20). "Forbidden Stories: Auch Daphne Caruana Galizias Recherchen gehen weiter |". (in German). Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  12. ^ "About Us • Forbidden Stories". Forbidden Stories. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  13. ^ "The Authors 2009". Young.euro.connect. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  14. ^ "German car club ADAC hit by vote scandal over 'auto Oscars'". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  15. ^ "German car industry rocked by vote-rigging in auto prize". Reuters. 2017-01-20. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  16. ^ Germany, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg. "Manipulationsskandal: ADAC beschließt tiefgreifende Reform - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Auto". SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  17. ^ "Bruder, was hast du getan? - Bastian Obermayer, Rainer Stadler - Kiepenheuer & Witsch". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  18. ^ "The dubious Colombia exports of German arms manufacturer Sig Sauer". International. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  19. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2010-07-31). "Erich Steidtmann, Ex-Nazi Officer in Inquiry, Dies at 95". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  20. ^ "Deadly Drone War, Made in Germany". International. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  21. ^ Zeitung, Süddeutsche. "The Manifesto of John Doe". Sü Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  22. ^ "Panama Papers - Bastian Obermayer, Frederik Obermaier - Kiepenheuer & Witsch". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  23. ^ "Bob Woodward: It's a triumph of journalism, 10/04/2016, Broadcasting House - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  24. ^ "What Edward Snowden thinks about the explosive Panama Papers leak". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  25. ^ "Netflix Unfolds The Panama Papers". Netflix Media Center. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  26. ^ "Two production studios are racing to turn the Panama Papers into a movie. Not an onion article". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  27. ^ Rundfunk, Carolin Hasenauer, Bayerischer (2018-04-20). "Forbidden Stories: Auch Daphne Caruana Galizias Recherchen gehen weiter |". (in German). Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  28. ^ "Medien: Helmut Schmidt Journalistenpreis geht an ADAC-Enthüller". Die Zeit. 2014-09-12. ISSN 0044-2070. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  29. ^ "Helmut Schmidt Journalistenpreis". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  30. ^ Denk, David. "Journalistenpreis: "Elektrisiert"". (in German). ISSN 0174-4917. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  31. ^ "Das sind die Journalisten des Jahres". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  32. ^ "medium - magazin für journalisten". medium - magazin für journalisten. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  33. ^ "Panama Papers investigation wins George Polk Award". Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  34. ^ "Getting the scoop: Q&A with Bastian Obermayer of The Panama Papers". Reynolds Center. 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  35. ^ "Marina Walker y un equipo detrás de los Panamá Papers". (in Spanish). 2016-10-08. Retrieved 2017-05-12.