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Leaked Mossack Fonseca document leaves London law firm exposed

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Eminent private client outfit remains tightlipped over dealings with Azerbaijan president’s daughters

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A prominent London law firm has been left exposed after leaked Mossack Fonseca documents revealed how it had helped set up a secret offshore company for the daughters of the Azerbaijan president.

Child & Child — a long-established private client law firm based in Knightsbridge — appears to be the latest victim of what is now being dubbed the ‘Panama Papers’.

For those who have been living in a cave for the past four days, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca was the subject of a mass data breach over the weekend with millions of sensitive files being leaked to the press. The documents show how Mossack Fonseca — among other things — helped clients avoid tax.

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In the wake of the mass leak, a document (embedded below) has emerged purporting to show how lawyers at Child & Child helped Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva (pictured above left and right) — daughters of Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev — set up a holding company called Exaltation Limited.

307055813 Register of Members Copy Redacted

Company formation documents (embedded below) completed by the firm’s lawyers earlier this year show how it stated their clients were not “politically exposed persons” (PEPs). Under British rules anyone with a close association or connection with a senior political figure would be considered a PEP. So despite their clients having a president as a father, Child & Child ticked the box marked “no”.

307055814 Exaltation Final Redacted

Incorporated in March 2015, the documents further reveal how Exaltation Limited was set up for the purpose of “holding UK property”. With the firm’s exact value unclear, the document claims assets are in excess of $1million (£709,000), from what is described as “personal savings”.

According to The Guardian, PEPs are well within their rights to own a business offshore, however they should — due to the nature of their ownership — be subject to “greater scrutiny and due diligence checks by banks”.

The Aliyev sisters were both educated at £15,000-per-year Queen’s College in Harley Street, London. They are believed to share a property portfolio in excess of £50 million, with extensive interests in Dubai, Paris and London, according to estimates arrived at four years ago.

Leyla owns a £17 million property overlooking Hampstead Heath, is founder and editor-in-chief of Baku magazine, has her own YouTube channel, and until 2015 was married to Emin Agalarov, a property tycoon — turned pop star — who provided the half-time entertainment at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.

Remaining close-mouthed, Child & Child would not respond to Legal Cheek’s request for comment.

However, Mossack Fonseca’s founding partner Ramon Fonseca has broken his silence for the first time since the leak. Claiming the firm’s operations were entirely legal, he suggested Mossack Fonseca had been the victim of a “witch-hunt”.

13 Comments

Inspector Plod

This is just the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg.

BTW – Who is the MLRO at Child & Child…? LOL

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Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breaches Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

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Anonymous

The full source data sounds like it’s being dumped in early May…should be interesting

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Anonymous

Is “prominent” the new “top”?

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Anonymous

Isn’t that where Kevin Poulter (Legal Cheek alumnus) is now a “partner”?

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Anonymous

Yes it is . Careful Kevin !

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Anonymous

I won’t lie to you. I didn’t read past the errant apostrophe in the first paragraph and as such I have no opinion on his article

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Anonymous

Why is there an apostrophe in “daughter’s”?

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Anonymous

The panama leak only suggest that it is perfectly legal for UK employee to steal massive confidential files from London law firm or UK law firm and leaked it to ICIJ for public exposure

It is new era of Transparency!!!

Those journalist and media would been treated as “Freedom fighter” for publishing those stolen files from law firm. ( it hurt the confidentiality relationship between lawyer and clients)

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Anonymous

Not legal – but it definitely is moral and ethical to breach confidentiality to expose criminality. The rule of law means nothing if rich fraudsters can legally buy a “get out jail free” card not available to the benefit fraudsters.

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Anonymous

Any law firm in the West can now become the next victim after Panama leak.

Employee have absolute right to steal massive confidential files from law firm and leaked to the Journalist.

The owners of law firm cant sleep very well.

They cant sue the journalists or ICIJ for leaking their confidential files .
They cant prevent the publication of those confidential files
All the clients would lost great trust on these law firm and lawyers to safeguard their privacy and confidentiality of their agreement.

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Anonymous

Are you translating from Russian to English using Goole translate?

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Anonymous

If you google the words “high net worth” and “london law firm” you’ve probably got the next aunt sallies in this sorry story who’ll be receiving the rotten tomatoes from the SRA and those of us who take ethics and professonial conduct seriously. You can hear the whirring of the shredding machines all over WC1 and W1.

Expect the SRA to start introdcing weekly audits for those firms…

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