Unlocking Swiss secrets

Secrecy is deeply embedded in Swiss political, bureaucratic and business culture. It’s of course not surprising that the world’s banking capital puts a premium on discretion and confidentiality. Switzerland is still a preferred location for companies and rich individuals around the world because it offers tax and other advantages, including political stability and a low level of transparency. Many journalists probing business, corruption, and even organized crime are bound to encounter either a Swiss bank account or a Swiss company in the course of their reporting. And getting information on them is not going to be easy.

But even in Switzerland, the walls of secrecy are slowly being breached. Banking secrecy there is no longer as ironclad as it used to be, after the U.S. began aggressively forcing Swiss banks to open their records as part of an effort to collect taxes from American citizens stashing their wealth overseas. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Planespotting and investigative reporting

Image

Planespotters photographing a 747 at Zagreb airport. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I became interested in planespotting some years ago, after viewing the clever video posted by the Tunisian blogger Astrubal, who put together planespotters’ photographs of the Tunisian presidential plane’s comings and goings.

Planespotters are hobbyists who have a passion for planes: they track, photograph and record aircraft takeoffs and landings, taking note of registration numbers and other markings. Some follow just particular types of aircraft, others just an airline or a national insignia. A lot of them take photographs of their sightings, and like other hobbyists, they post the photos online. The Open Directory Project lists nearly 60 websites that  collect planespotting pictures. Many of these sites have searchable databases, where one can search planes by make, airport sighted and, more importantly, by tail number. Read the rest of this entry »