Panama Papers law firm threatens ‘aggressive’ litigation after massive client data leak

© panamapapers.icij.org
Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca is set to start legal action against the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) over the leak of hundreds of thousands of “stolen” offshore documents which it claims damaged the image of its clients.

“The Consortium has forced us to start aggressive legal action to protect ourselves from acts such as these, which, since they are crimes, must be taken to the proper bodies for due process,” the company said in a statement released on Tuesday, as quoted by AFP.

The law firm states that it “condemns” the release of “stolen and in some cases false information” that was obtained through theft of data stored on the company’s private servers. The legal firms says that hacking of its database is a “crime”, and that public access to information can lead to “inaccurate assumptions on individuals, companies and intermediaries.”

Furthermore the company noted that any judgment by the public into what is contained in the leaks is a “misguided speculation about facts taken entirely out of context.” Mossack Fonseca stressed that the law firm has been conducting business under strict judicial guidelines, and did not violate any laws.

It especially notes that the leak damaged not only the company’s image but the images of their clients.

Mossack Fonseca concludes that it has been forced into legal action after ICIJ avoided communications seeking to resolve the issue.

On Monday, the ICIJ released a searchable database of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions around the world that were handled by Mossack Fonseca. The leak became the largest ever release of data implicating shady dealings of the offshore companies and the people who run them. The data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through until the end of 2015.

“The new data that ICIJ is now making public represents a fraction of the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11.5 million leaked files from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s top creators of hard-to-trace companies, trusts and foundations,” ICIJ said in a press release that claimed that the publication was done in the “public interest”.

Available for closer public scrutiny the database sheds light about some 360,000 company owners, proxies and the intermediaries that were used to run the offshore accounts.

While the initial leak made Western media focus on the alleged wrongdoings of the Russian elite, charges which the Kremlin has denied, the list of names whose affairs have come under scrutiny also include UK Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as Presidents Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and Mauricio Macri of Argentina. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign over his offshore dealings.

The trove of information available through the offshoreleaks.icij.org database doesn’t contain bank accounts, email interactions or information about specific financial transactions.

“The database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers. The selected and limited information is being published in the public interest,” the ICIJ said.

Until the public release of the data, over 370 reporters from nearly 80 countries probed the files for a year to uncover dozens of politicians, celebrities, drug traffickers and other criminals. Some 2.6 terabytes of information was originally given to the German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, by ‘John Doe’ more than a year ago.