John Doe (whistleblower)

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John Doe is the pseudonym used by the whistleblower in the 2016 Panama Papers leak, who turned over 11.5 million documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca to the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.[1][2][3] On May 5, 2016, Doe published a statement titled The Revolution Will Be Digitized[4]; Doe explained they [a] made the files public to underline growing income inequality and financial corruption globally. The whistleblower has offered to help prosecutors build their cases, on condition of legal protection.[5]

Initial contact with Süddeutsche Zeitung[edit]

In 2014, Doe contacted Bastian Obermayer, a reporter working for German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, with the message "Hello. This is John Doe. Interested in data?" When Obermayer answered in the affirmative, Doe continued, saying, "There are a couple of conditions. My life is in danger. We will only chat over encrypted files. No meeting, ever." When Obermayer asked Doe why he or she was leaking the data, Doe responded that he or she sought to "make these crimes public." Doe then proceeded to transfer roughly 11.5 million documents from the records of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.[7] When the data was eventually released to the public, it became known as the Panama Papers.

The Revolution Will Be Digitized[edit]

Doe issued a statement through Süddeutsche Zeitung on May 5, 2016, explaining the motivation for releasing the massive trove of files.[8]

In this text, titled The Revolution Will Be Digitized, Doe cited growing global income inequality and corruption allegedly enabled by Mossack Fonseca as motivation for releasing the papers. Doe also said the papers demonstrated the injustices perpetrated by the industry that creates offshore companies and blamed governments for allowing offshore havens to proliferate, saying he or she leaked the documents "simply because I understood enough about their contents to realise the scale of the injustices they described." Doe added that he or she had never worked for any government or intelligence agency and expressed willingness to help prosecutors. After Süddeutsche Zeitung verified that it was from the Panama Papers source, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full written statement on its website.[6][9]


  1. ^ The subject pronoun 'they' is used as Doe's gender is not publicly known.[5][6]


  1. ^ Levy, Megan (April 6, 2016). "'Interested in data?': Panama Papers leak began with message from 'John Doe'". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  2. ^ International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; Elise Worthington (April 5, 2016). "Panama Papers: Why 'John Doe' risked their life for the Mossack Fonseca leak". ABC News. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  3. ^ Hines, Nicho (April 4, 2016). "Panama Papers Leaker: 'I Want to Make These Crimes Public'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  4. ^ "Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come". Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Panama Papers Source Offers to Aid Inquiries if Exempt From Punishment". NYT. May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Panama Papers: Source breaks silence on Mossack Fonseca leaks". May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  7. ^ Farhi, Paul (April 7, 2016). "'Hello. This is John Doe': The mysterious message that launched the Panama Papers". Daily Mail. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  8. ^ Franco, Arnulfo (May 6, 2016). "John Doe, mysterious whistleblower behind Panama Papers, finally speaks". The Miami Herald. Associated Press. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  9. ^ "Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come". ICIJ. May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.