Industry News Details

Big Data Shines a Light on Bad Actors, But Shadows Remain Posted on : Oct 09 - 2021

This week’s publication of the Pandora Papers–which the International Consortium of International Journalists based on a trove of private data leaked from offshore tax havens–showcased the alarming extent of fraud and corruption in the world. While big data tech like graph analytics and machine learning can help to a shine light on bad actors, we’ll always be playing catch up, fraud hunters tell Datanami.

The sheer numbers behind the Pandora Papers, which the ICIJ published on October 3, 2021, are staggering. The ICIJ was provided with 11.9 million documents, including text files, PDFs, images, emails, and spreadsheets, from 14 offshore tax havens, totaling 2.9 TB of data. The documents contained information about 27,000 shell companies created to protect the assets of 29,000 beneficial owners, including 130 billionaires and 330 politicians from 90 countries.

As with earlier ICIJ investigations–including the FinCEN files in 2020, the West Africa Leaks in 2018, and the original Panama Papers in 2016, among others–the journalists turned to big data software to help connect the dots. The tech stack ultimately deployed by the ICIJ included Neo4j’s graph database, graph visualization tools from Linkurious, and a healthy dollop of Python for machine learning, including scikit-learn and Fondeur.

The technology side of the story is certainly an interesting one. The folks at Neo4j did good job of showing how their graph database was employed to expose the elaborate connections among various entities that bad actors and their agents string together to shield their illegal activities. That the nefarious dealings of people like King Abdullah II of Jordan, Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was finally brought to light is a result of this tough sleuth work.

Fraud Is Booming

But don’t count former FBI agent Clark Frogley as one of the folks who are startled by the extent of the fraud.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Frogley, who has spent 30 years fighting financial crime. “I don’t know how long it will be before we get the next one. Just like with the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers and other things that happened, there’s so much of this stuff going on in the world today.” View More