The cascade of WikiLeaks-style revelations shedding light on the often murky world of offshore tax havens began when Gerard Ryle received a mysterious letter in the post.
The experienced investigative journalist had been busy trying to unravel the details of a large financial fraud in his native Australia when the prospect of an even bigger scoop landed on his doormat.
The letter contained part of a hard drive with the details of 2.5 million digital files, a treasure trove that would ultimately yield information on 120,000 offshore companies and nearly 130,000 individuals.
Ryle, who moved to Washington to head the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) soon after receiving the hard drive, admits he was not entirely sure what he was dealing with at first.
"My instinct told me it was big but you do not know," Ryle told AFP. Technical impediments also frustrated his early attempts to pore over the information he had received.