Top City firms named as a result of Mossack Fonseca leak and further investigations by press
All five magic circle law firms have been named in an online database that reveals the identities of thousands of companies connected to the Panama Papers leak.
According to the website — which has been produced by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — it contains information on “who’s behind almost 320,000 offshore companies and trusts”. Information has been gathered as a direct result of the data breach suffered by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and further investigations into offshore activity undertaken by the ICIJ.
A search of the database reveals documents linked to Clifford Chance’s London, Dubai, France, US and Hong Kong offices. According to the site these files were acquired as a result of the mass data breach suffered by Mossack Fonseca.
Next up is Allen & Overy. According to the database, documents mentioning the firm’s London and Dubai offices were handed to journalists as a direct result of the Mossack Fonseca leak.
Slaughter and May is also named on the site. An address in Hong Kong — that doesn’t appear to be the elite outfit’s office — appears alongside the firm’s name. However these files were were not directly linked to the data leak at Mossack Fonseca, and were discovered as a result of further investigations undertaken by journalists at the ICIJ.
Global giant Linklaters’ name appears on the database too. The site gives the address of the magic circle firm’s Hong Kong office. The firm’s name wasn’t mentioned specifically in the leaked Mossack Fonseca files, but like Slaughter and May, documents containing the firm’s name were discovered by journalists as part of their wider investigation into offshore activity.
Finally, Anglo-German outfit Freshfields — despite being spelt with a second capital “F” on the database — is also named. With no office address given — and again like Slaughter and May and Linklaters — files naming the elite outfit were acquired as a result of further investigations by journalists.
The database — which went live at 7pm yesterday — stresses that there “are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts.” Furthermore the ICIJ makes explicitly clear to users of the site that individuals or companies named have not necessarily “broken the law or otherwise acted improperly”.
For those who haven’t been following the story, Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca was the victim of a major data breach. Millions of sensitive files were initially passed to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which in turn enrolled the help of the ICIJ to sift through the masses of information.
Hitting headlines earlier this year, the documents showed how Mossack Fonseca — among other things — helped wealthy clients circumvent local tax laws. This subsequently led to the Prime Minister David Cameron fielding awkward questions regarding his father’s tax arrangements and the resignation of his Icelandic counterpart.
Last month alongside City outfits Simmons & Simmons and Holman Fenwick Willan, Child & Child — a private client law firm based in Knightsbridge — was named in leaked documents. Purporting to show how the firm helped the daughters of the Azerbaijan president set up a secret offshore company, Child & Child’s lawyers incorrectly claimed that their wealthy clients were not “politically exposed persons”. Under British rules anyone with a close association or connection with a senior political figure would be considered a PEP. Child & Child did not respond to Legal Cheek’s request for comment at the time.
Mossack Fonseca — which now has its own unofficial clothing range with the tagline “because taxes are for poor people” — maintains that it has done nothing wrong. Ramon Fonseca, the firm’s founding partner, insists the firm has operated beyond reproach for 40 years, suggesting that the Panamanian outfit had become the focus of a “witch-hunt”.
Legal Cheek contacted all five of the magic circle firms. Each declined to comment.