Offshore law firm goes after British press in Paradise Papers hack

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) — The law firm that was the victim of a hack in which millions of documents about their clients’ offshore financial affairs were exposed in what has become known as the Paradise Papers is taking legal action against the BBC and the Guardian in Britain.

Both media organisations have stated that they will defend the breach of confidence proceedings instigated by offshore law firm Appleby, which has also demanded that they hand over the documents they used in various reports.

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 assertion.

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.

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 HM Revenue and Customs in Britain, 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 outlets in the original group that are facing legal action.

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

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service

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