The super-rich clients of a Bermuda-based offshore company were braced for their financial secrets to be exposed after it admitted that its computer records had been hacked, reports The Times.
Appleby said that it suffered a leak last year “which involved some of our data being compromised” and admitted that it was “not infallible” but denied any wrongdoing.
The latest leak comes nearly 18 months after the release of the so-called Panama papers, which proved highly embarrassing for leading figures in politics, business and the entertainment world.
Appleby has claimed that its clients include financial institutions and FTSE 100 companies, as well as the wealthy individuals. Those affected by the leak are reported to be among the richest in the UK.
The data has been analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the group behind the reporting of the Panama papers, and it will be published soon by its media partners.
Appleby, which also has branches in tax havens including the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and the Seychelles, said in a statement: “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.
“We rebut any allegations which may suggest otherwise and we would be happy to co-operate fully with any legitimate and authorised investigation of the allegations by the appropriate and relevant authorities.
“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.”
It said that the ICIJ’s allegations of wrongdoing were “unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector”.
Offshore companies are favoured by the very wealthy, who pay them for their expert knowledge in international tax law and their discretion. Most of the major players in the industry are regarded as relatively obscure. On its website, Appleby claims that it is “widely recognised for providing first-class corporate and commercial legal services as well as litigation and insolvency advice”.
A report published by the European parliament in March cited the Panama papers and said that offshore centres “played an important role in hiding illegal activities, criminal identity and criminal ownership of assets right from their start”.
The Appleby leak has echoes of the case, in which hundreds of thousands of documents were leaked from the Mossack Fonseca law firm, based in Panama City.
Among those exposed was the former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was removed from office as a result of revelations about his family finances.