Data from law firm in Bermuda could potentially reveal sensitive financial data about high profile individuals
An offshore law firm based in Bermuda has suffered a damaging data breach that could expose the tax arrangements of the super rich.
The ‘security incident’ at Appleby reportedly took place last year, and there is concern that sensitive information about international businesses and wealthy individuals will be published online in the coming days.
This is the latest in a long line of data breaches to hit the headlines recently, but its potential to expose very sensitive information could have a number of repercussions for the individuals and businesses concerned.
This is because the law firm at the centre of this alleged data breach admitted it had been contacted by the same media group who was responsible for the reporting of the Panama Papers, namely the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“These enquiries have arisen from documents that journalists claim to have seen and involve allegations made against our business and the business conducted by some of our clients,” said the law firm.
“We take any allegation of wrongdoing, implicit or otherwise, extremely seriously,” said the firm. “Appleby operates in highly regulated jurisdictions and like all professional organisations in our regions, we are subject to frequent regulatory checks and we are committed to achieving the high standards set by our regulators.”
The law firm then went on to deny any allegations of wrongdoing.
“Appleby has thoroughly and vigorously investigated the allegations and we are satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients,” it added. “We refute any allegations which may suggest otherwise and we would be happy to cooperate fully with any legitimate and authorised investigation of the allegations by the appropriate and relevant authorities.”
And Appleby stressed that just because it was an offshore law firm, did not mean it acted unlawfully.
“We are an offshore law firm who advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business,” it said. “We do not tolerate illegal behaviour. It is true that we are not infallible. Where we find that mistakes have happened we act quickly to put things right and we make the necessary notifications to the relevant authorities.”
But it did admit that there had been a “security incident” in 2016 which had exposed some of its data.
“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,” it said.
And Appleby also expressed its ‘disappointment’ that the media is choosing to “use this information which could have emanated from material obtained illegally and that this may result in exposing innocent parties to data protection breaches.”
“Having researched the ICIJ’s allegations we believe they are unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector,” it said.
The Panama Papers data leak in April 2016 centred on a law firm called Mossack Fonseca. It said a breach of its email servers led to the leaking of 11.5 million client documents to the International Consortium of International Journalists (ICIJ).
Among the details to emerge from that leak was the offshore banking accounts of the late father of the former British Prime Minister David Cameron that were used to avoid paying taxes.
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