Offshore law firm goes after press in Paradise Papers hack

| 19/12/2017 | 21 Comments
CNS Business

Appleby office, Cayman Islands

(CNS Business): The law firm which was the victim of a hack in which millions of documents about their clients’ offshore financial affairs were exposed is taking legal action against the BBC and the Guardian. Both media organisations have stated that they will defend the breach of confidence proceedings instigated by Appleby, which has also demanded that they hand over the documents they used in the various reports about what has become known as the Paradise Papers. Appleby’s position is that the hack was a criminal act in which confidential legal documents were stolen and they need to take legal action to ascertain what was actually taken.

The firm also argues that publishing the content was not  in the public interest, while the news organisations completely disagree with that point.

The BBC said it would strongly defend its role in the Paradise Papers project. “Our serious and responsible journalism is resulting in revelations which are clearly of the highest public interest and has revealed matters which would otherwise have remained secret. Already we are seeing authorities taking action as a consequence,” officials from the public media organisation said in a statement.

The Guardian, which has also said it intends to vigorously defend the legal action, pointed out that the claim does not challenge the truth of the stories but was an attempt to undermine responsible public interest journalism.

In a response to CNS inquiries about the action Abbleby stated, “Our overwhelming responsibility is to our clients and our own colleagues who have had their private and confidential information taken in what was a criminal act. We need to know firstly which of their – and our – documents were taken.  We would want to explain in detail to our clients and our colleagues the extent to which their confidentiality has been attacked. Despite repeated requests the journalists have failed to provide to us copies of the stolen documents they claim to have seen.  For this reason, Appleby is obliged to take legal action in order to ascertain what information has been stolen.”

Appleby has previously stated that the hack did not expose any evidence of wrongdoing by the firm or its clients.

However, since the more than six million documents began to be exposed, the information has provoked enquiries by the Australian tax office and HMRC as well as calls from the EU finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, for changes in the law to stop “vampires” avoiding paying tax.

Following an episode of the BBC’s Panorama programme broadcast last month, Appleby said in a statement that it was the victim of “a serious criminal act and our systems were accessed by an intruder who deployed the tactics of a professional hacker”.

The documents were first leaked by the hackers to the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). In turn, ICIJ coordinated the project in which 380 journalists from 96 media organisations across 67 countries worked on the information. When the information began to be published, hundreds more news and media organisations began reporting on the information. But so far, the BBC and the Guardian are the only media in the original group that are facing legal action.

Founded in Bermuda, Appleby has offices all over the world, including Cayman, and is recognised as one of the world’s leading offshore firms.

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Category: Finance, Financial Services, Law

Comments (21)

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  1. 11:06 and the 36 likes. At what point in a democratic society, does the public have the right to know that the President of the United States, the American Secretary Of Commerce and 9 of the top advisers surrounding the President are directly and indirectly involved with money laundering, fraud and racketeering? Damn the privacy rights of a Bermudan law firm. What we are talking about here are the very foundations of American democracy.

    Are you people really concerned about the privacy rights of Appleby and their clients over the rights of the general public to know what is going on with their basic institutions which are the basis of democracy? While I do support privacy rights, I do accept that there are times when the public good must prevail over a law firm and it’s clients.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Quite aside from the civil action, are there not potentially a number of serious inchoate offences committed by ICIJ, Guardian & BBC etc, including obviously under the Computer Misuse Act but also a terrorism offence under the Terrorism Act 2000?
    Perhaps a lawyer could chime in.

    • 6:59. Wonder what you think about a law firm providing services to risky clients in Iran, Libya, Russia, etc? Is the direct and indirect support of arms trading, terrorism and money laundering not an offense?

      • Anonymous says:

        Whataboutery at its finest. One of the most interesting features of the Paradise Papers is that there was no evidence of criminality other than the theft and circulation of the data in the first place.

  3. Fred the Piemaker says:

    Irrespective of whether the Guardian and BBC think this is in the public interest or not, or whether that even begins to work as a defence for being in possession of stolen property, how do they justify not telling Appleby – who they admit the data was taken from – what data they have? How is that in the public interest? Or are they prepared to maintain a duty of confidentiality to the ICIJ whilst completely ignoring the rights of the data’s owners? Appleby should make a criminal complaint.

    • I am looking forward to Appleby explaining how it is not in the public interest for the,public to know that billions have been laundered by Russians into American real estate and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s bank, the Bank Of Cyprus, was the main institution that transmitted the money to America. On top of that is the Deutsche Bank money laundering link. This is the public’s interest because it directly impacts on President Donald Trump and decisions he is making on a daily basis that impacts on the American public.

      This will be interesting but Appleby will lose.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry but it doesn’t have anything to do with the US.

        • 1:03 and the 6 likes. Take a few days over the holidays to read all the Paradise Papers and then come back to me if you think they have nothing to do with the US.
          By the way, American companies Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Wilbur Ross is the American Secretary Of Commerce. Oh, and 9 of the people named in the Papers were directly involved in Trump’s campaign last year.
          Your homework is to tell me which of the 9 people were named in the Papers.

          Good reading and Merry Xmas.

          • Anonymous says:

            None of them are complaining, and they didn’t do anything wrong, so the US is not complaining either. It’s only a scandal other places. You should be glad we in the US don’t think doing business in Cayman or minimizing taxes are crimes.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is going to work out reallly swell.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am a bit disappointed with this article. If this is a cut and paste job by CNS it does them and us no credit: ‘as well as calls from the EU finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, for changes in the law to stop “vampires” avoiding paying tax’, does not suggest wrong doing by Appleby or their clients even if there are enquiries being made by the Australian govt. What it shows is what Travers said is indeed correct, you cant be angry with people for playing by the rules and operating within the law. You can however change the laws onshore if you dont think they are correct or effective enough and therefore Pierre Moscovici has the right to blow whatever trumpet he wants to change whatever law he wants. But avoidance and evasion are and remain two different things. Avoidance is not criminal no matter which way they choose to dress it up. No one structures their affairs to pay the maximum amount of taxes they possibly can! In fact one avoids doing that. Whilst CNS is in this jurisdiction it would be nice if they would also take the time not to sell us out with the same stories being run by a biased media elsewhere. Thanks and have a Merry Christmas.

    • Sorry, Mr. Travers is incorrect. The breaking of western sanctions on Russia and Iran is illegal. Appleby’s facilitation and encouragement of sanctions breaking is a disgrace and is illegal. Look forward to hearing them explain in court how they had no idea they were breaking western sanctions of which the United Kingdom is a party to. Appleby was certainly not playing by the rules and operating within the laws.

      • Anonymous says:

        Even if that were the case, the BBC doesn’t have the right to claim themselves Robinhood and commit cybercrime against who they feel like hacking!! The perpetrators should be reported to Interpol, arrested and brought here to face criminal charges just like Sayed.

        • Chris Johnson says:

          Leave Robin Hood out of this. He might to a bush and sue you and CNS. He was found not guilty by the Nottingham District Court.

      • Anonymous says:

        Strange. The quote on CNS makes no mention of illegality or money laundering by Appleby. If there was proof of this then it would be bizarre that Appleby would file a suit whilst facing that and if that is the case then no doubt there will be charges against Appleby. The article does however plainly suggest that what Appleby did do wrong, was tax avoidance. If Pierre Moscovici is more concerned about taxation on illegal gains of terrorism etc then we have bigger problems than appears in this article. Its then more about a corrupt government and system. I have to disagree with you though. On the face of the article, my comments remain the same and Travers is correct: tax avoidance is per se not a crime. It is shameful that this article should now invite these sorts of allegations with no proof to that effect.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Going after the culprits (hackers), is of course more difficult so target the messenger. This would not have happened if your IT people weren’t so naive and or unprepared.

    • Anonymous says:

      You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. Arrogant fool.

      • Anonymous says:

        That ship has sailed. Under the weird British privacy laws, Applebys might win, but then only Brits will be in the dark. Literally everyone else on earth will still have access.This suit is purely a salvage operation designed to preserve a client relation or two and stay in business.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good on you Appleby. In its simplest form this is theft and receiving stolen goods, the BBC and Guardian knew the information was stolen and had no legal rights to it. I hope they get the book thrown at them.

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