Data leak was ‘criminal act’

THE firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers data leak has claimed that it has done nothing ‘unlawful’ and is the the victim of a ‘serious criminal act’ committed by a ‘professional hacker’.

Offices of Appleby on The Esplanade                                                             Picture: ROB CURRIE. (19780128)
Offices of Appleby on The Esplanade Picture: ROB CURRIE. (19780128)

Over the weekend, investigative journalists released details from a leak of 13.4 million documents revealing the offshore financial dealings of wealthy people and corporations. Reports have been broadcast on the BBC’s Panorama programme, with extensive coverage seen in national newspapers.

More than six million of the documents came from the files of legal services firm Appleby, which has a strong presence in Jersey. The company last week admitted that its files were hacked last year and that data was ‘compromised’.

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In a statement, the firm denied any wrongdoing and accused the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which is investigating the documents, of falsely claiming that Appleby did not respond to its queries.

‘The journalists do not allege, nor could they, that Appleby has done anything unlawful. There is no wrongdoing. It is a patchwork quilt of unrelated allegations with a clear political agenda and movement against offshore,’ the company’s statement said.

‘We wish to reiterate that our firm was not the subject of a leak, but of a serious criminal act. This was an illegal computer hack.

‘Our systems were accessed by an intruder who deployed the tactics of a professional hacker and covered his/her tracks to the extent that a forensic investigation by a leading international cyber and threats team concluded that there was no definitive evidence that any data had left our systems. This was not the work of anybody who works at Appleby.’

The statement adds: ‘We have had lengthy correspondence with the ICIJ. Their claim that we “did not reply to their detailed questions” is false.’

Appleby has contacted the States police concerning the data theft. A statement from the force said: ‘Assessment is ongoing as to whether any locally related offences may have been committed.’

John Harris, director-general of the Jersey Financial Services Commission, which regulates the finance industry, said that while they were ‘monitoring’ developments, they were only regulating Appleby on a limited basis.

‘We can confirm that Appleby is currently overseen by the JFSC for the conduct of its legal services business in Jersey regarding anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism only,’ he said.

‘As a legal services firm Appleby is not regulated by the JFSC for the general conduct of its business.’

A spokesman for the States said that cyber-security had long been a ‘priority area’ for the government of Jersey.

‘This is why we have consulted on and developed a far-reaching cyber-security strategy, and why we have recently partnered with Guernsey and the UK government to share information in real time on cyber threats,’ he said. ‘No jurisdiction can ever be entirely secure, which is why we are engaging directly with local businesses and all Islanders to highlight the importance of online safety and data security.’

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