Panama Papers-style scandal likely to follow Bermuda law firm hack

  • Panic among super-rich as offshore legal firm braces for media leaks
  • Appleby warns clients that their secret financial information may have been compromised – last year
  • The company's clients are reported to include FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies

LONDON – A Bermuda-based law firm specialising in offshore tax havens has said it is bracing for documents to be published after being approached by the media network behind the Panama Papers.

Appleby, the law firm, admitted it had been hacked last year, prompting fears of a Panama Papers-style exposé into the tax affairs of the super rich, a British newspaper reported Wednesday.

The US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and affiliated media raised allegations against the company’s operations and its clients, following information being leaked.

The law firm, founded in 1897, is in the process of writing to customers to warn them of the compromise, which occurred in 2016, and comes after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) threatened to open up the cache of files that it claims were leaked to it in September last year.

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In a statement, Appleby denied allegations of any tax evasions or other wrongdoing by itself or its clients while admitting that it was “not infallible”. The law firm – which employs 470 staffers and operates from 10 offices across the world – went on to state that it had shored up its security since the hack.

“We are committed to protecting our clients’ data and we have reviewed our cyber security and data access arrangements following a data security incident last year which involved some of our data being compromised. These arrangements were reviewed and tested by a leading IT Forensics team and we are confident that our data integrity is secure.”

The Daily Telegraph reports that the leak involved some of Britain’s wealthiest people, who were said to be consulting lawyers and public relations executives in preparations for possible fallout from the hack.

News of the breach of Appleby follows nearly 18 months after the release of the so-called Panama papers, which provoked huge embarrassment (and worse) for wealthy figures in politics and business as well as spawning a debate about the ethics of tax havens.

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Media reports suggests Applebay’s clients include FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies.