Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Clyde & Co and Taylor Wessing have all been named as firms linked to secret offshore entities in the latest leak of over 11.5m files as part of the Panama Papers investigation.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released the files yesterday (9 May) as part of the project which has revealed the names of more than 360,000 people and companies behind the offshore structures.
The leak has revealed the offshore secret holdings of some 12 world leaders and more than 128 other politicians among fraudsters and other criminals whose companies had been blacklisted in locations across the globe.
In the LB100’s top 20 law firms, Clifford Chance’s Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York offices have been listed as linked to the Panama Papers in the leak, as well as Allen & Overy’s Dubai and London offices, Clyde & Co’s London office and Taylor Wessing’s London office.
As well as those firms, legacy Norton Rose, which is now Norton Rose Fulbright and Lovells, which later formed Hogan Lovells as also listed in the leak.
The ICIJ, who recruited some 370 journalists to probe the files across a year, stressed the leak did not directly imply any criminal wrongdoing. ‘There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly,’ the organisation said.
Both the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority have been looking to clarify whether several law firms, banks, and other financial companies are linked to the firm at the heart of the Panama Papers leak, Mossack Fonseca.
The SRA has signalled it is currently reviewing review the details of the information released and is considering next steps, but will not confirm how many firms it has contacted. A spokesperson for the regulatory body said: ‘we are reviewing the original responses to our request for assurances, as well as continuing to liaise with other authorities with an interest in this matter. We will then decide whether we need to take any further steps.’
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said offshore financial centres are ‘an important and legitimate part’ of business for many multinational firms and facilitate many aspects of global trade.
‘Solicitors in England and Wales are highly regulated and the profession has high standards of professional conduct. We expect solicitors in both their professional and private capacity to uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice and to act with integrity at all times,’ Smithers told Legal Business. ‘The right way to tackle transparency and tax consistency issues is via comprehensive and consistently applied international scrutiny requirements and international tax agreements. These are areas where UK expertise and leadership plays a positive role.’