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Trouble in paradise? The Queen, Bono and Mrs Brown’s Boys stars linked to law firm data leak

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But offshore outfit is still looking to recruit a trainee lawyer

The actions of one of the world’s largest providers of offshore legal services is under the spotlight this week after millions of confidential client documents were leaked.

Appleby, which was founded by English lawyer Reginald Appleby in 1898, is relatively small in size compared to its City of London peers. It has around 470 members of staff, 60 partners, and ten offices. Its branches are located in the likes of the idyllic Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Mauritius, as well as the Isle of Man and Guernsey. According to its website, the firm specialises in asset finance, investment management, trusts and more.

Appleby’s head office in Bermuda

So why has this, with the greatest respect to Appleby, relatively unknown legal player among law students suddenly hit headlines across the globe? Well, unfortunately for the firm and its discreet clientele, it appears to have become the victim of a mass data leak.

Dubbed the ‘Paradise Papers’, reports suggest that over 13 million files containing the offshore financial affairs of celebrities, politicians and multinational businesses have made their way into the hands of investigative journalists.

And these are big name clients. The BBC’s Panorama reported yesterday evening that even the Queen of England had links to Appleby. The programme claimed to have seen documentation that allegedly suggested the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the Queen with an income, held around £10 million offshore, including a small amount which ended up being invested in a company behind controversial weekly payment retailer BrightHouse.

Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for the Duchy of Lancaster said:

“We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate.”

Other big names to be linked to the firm, according to Panorama, are: ex-Conservative party deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft and Donald Trump’s aid and the United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. U2 frontman Bono and stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys have also been named.

In a lengthy statement issued yesterday, a spokesperson for Appleby said that it was “satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing” on its part and branded the leak a “serious criminal act”. It continued:

“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. We are also committed to the highest standards of client service and confidentiality. It is what we stand for. This commitment is unequivocal.”

In lighter Appleby news, Legal Cheek can report that the firm is looking to recruit a trainee lawyer. Its career page reveals that applications for its “2018 Pupillage Trainee Program” are now open. However, those keen to put their name forward must be Bermudian, spouses of Bermudians or have a permanent resident certificate.

In 2016, a similar data breach occurred involving Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Legal Cheek reported at the time that the leaked documents — which inspired a range of unofficial T-shirts (pictured below) — contained the names of all five magic circle law firms.

The unofficial Mossack Fonseca T-shirts

At the time, Linklaters, Freshfields, Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy all declined comment, while Mossack Fonseca said it had become the focus of a “witch-hunt”.

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11 Comments

Not Amused

Can’t you just cut and paste in my comment from this morning?

Anonymous

Not Amused
Nov 6 2017 9:09am
Not all countries are well run. Some are very badly run. Those that are badly run have very high taxes. Thus taxes are a question of the state v the individual. Why should an individual suffer just because they are born in to a badly run state?

The same applies to companies. Thus there exist dozens of well run countries with low tax rates. Those well run countries now depend upon that system to provide jobs and an economy: they are rewarded for being well run.

Of these countries, Britain may be able to influence a handful (although it is possible we can’t influence any). Others would, if faced with the choice of their economy or a relationship with Britain, choose their economy and declare independence. The vast majority are already independent and thus Britain has no influence.

But assuming we could shut down the economy of one of these countries – why would we want to? If they remain linked to us then we would now have to support them from our tax money. What is the point of doing so when in global terms, nothing will change?

Why would we want to live in a world in which government corruption and incompetence is ignored and hidden by universally high taxes? The Guardian is much loved and provides a useful role. It is on record as being run and supported from a Cayman trust containing hundreds of millions of pounds. Should we shut the Guardian down? Is it immoral?

Britain is, relatively, well run and thus has low corporation tax. That makes it attractive to businesses to be based here and we all benefit. Should those businesses be told to leave because they are being immoral?

There is no point in a public inquiry. We know everything already. These ‘leaks’ are not leaks. They are just an attempt to shame certain people who are doing perfectly legal and perfectly rational things. I wouldn’t change the system if I could. I want well run countries to be rewarded with economies and to not have to live on hand outs from their old colonial powers. I want companies and individuals to be free to make choices and not dictated to by bad governments. I want the Guardian to continue doing what it does.

But even if we wanted to – we can’t change the system anyway. To do so would require control of every country and territory on Earth. That is an empire on a scale never before seen (thank goodness).

Anonymous

The Guardian Media Group is loss-making and has not been profitable for many years. This has been widely reported. HMRC would not be banging on their door in any event.

The time the Guardian Media Group are supposed to have avoided tax was in the acquisition of Auto Trader in 2007 (which it has now sold)…. http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/guardian-secure-for-generations-to-come-after-tax-free-bonanza-of-619m-from-auto-trader-sale/ But the Guardian says that it didn’t avoid tax, and published accounts an ‘effective tax rate’ of 46% on the profits from the sale
http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2008/07/30/the-guardians-accounts/
https://www.theguardian.com/help/insideguardian/2011/feb/22/blogpost

I’m not a tax expert and have no idea if there was or wasn’t something in the accusations wrt to this sale.

But you don’t have to be a tax expert to realise that a heavily loss-making company is probably not routinely avoiding taxes.

Not Amused

The Guardian Media Group is not the Trust. The trust is based in Cayman because doing so is tax efficient. That really is self evident – very few trusts end up in Cayman by accident.

I never understand why the left are so desperate to defend obvious hypocrisy. Why not just change your minds and admit that if it is OK for the Guardian to use off-shore trusts then it is OK for others to do so.

That’s the choice. The left can either change it’s mind and not be hypocritical, or carry on spouting nonsense while everyone else points out their hypocrisy.

Anonymous

Massive non-story. Tax is paid when the funds are repatriated.

It’s a bit like routing a corporate transaction through Luxembourg for CGT purposes, but the UK press don’t want to look at the tax haven on their doorstep, and run by close m7s of Jean Claude Juncker.

Anonymous

Why would they bother to send their money on a pointless cruise?

Not Amused

Well, in the case of the Queen, it is that people want to invest their money in order to make more money. If you want to do that then you can either invest internationally yourself or you can use a fund. Most people use a fund, because they don’t have these skills themselves.

If you use a fund, you want to use the best fund. The best funds in the world are located in low tax jurisdictions.

Which is why John McDonnell’s pension fund is off shore.

Anonymous

She’s a bonafide financial sage and genius.

And definitely not a patronising stater of the bleeding obvious.

Anonymous

Can I just say that the only things Mrs Brown’s Boys should be linked to is the sewage system via a U-bend.

They killed off House Of Fools and let this godawful pants continue…

“Oh look he’s pretending to be a woman and I think he/she just said the F word. Imagine if it was actually an old woman saying the F word. Oh haha haha ha…”

Anonymous

Even Not Amused has a better instinct for comedy…

Anonymous

Am lolling at the basic ‘research’ LC tries to convert into content:

“In lighter Appleby news, Legal Cheek can report that the firm is looking to recruit a trainee lawyer. Its career page reveals that applications for its “2018 Pupillage Trainee Program” are now open. However, those keen to put their name forward must be Bermudian, spouses of Bermudians or have a permanent resident certificate.”

This just means you clicked on the careers section of their website.

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