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Appleby settle law suit in Paradise Papers case

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THE offshore law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers exposé has settled its lawsuit against the Guardian newspaper and the BBC.

Appleby, the offshore law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers exposé, has settled its lawsuit against the Guardian newspaper and the BBC

Appleby, which has a substantial presence in Jersey, launched legal proceedings last December after the publisher and broadcaster ran a series of reports based on some of the 13.4 million documents the firm says were hacked from its files.

Confidential deals were revealed, including US tech giant Apple’s alleged use of Jersey-managed companies – on the advice of Appleby – to help move billions offshore.

Appleby commenced legal action against the two media organisations on 4 December in the English High Court on the basis that published reports were based on legally privileged [legally protected from disclosure] and confidential material belonging to Appleby’s clients.

A joint public statement says that the parties had ‘resolved their differences’ and it was determined that legal privilege did not apply in this case because most of the documents belonged to the financial services branch of Appleby’s business, which was bought by Estera in 2015.

The BBC and Guardian have agreed to advise Appleby which of its documents were used for their reports as a part of a deal to ‘preserve’ their right to conduct investigative journalism.

‘Appleby has publicly explained that its main objective for bringing the proceedings was to understand which of its confidential and privileged documents had been taken, so that Appleby could, for example, respond meaningfully to clients, regulators and colleagues about what information, relating to them, has been taken,’ the joint statement says.

‘Without compromising their journalistic integrity or ability to continue to do public interest journalism, the Guardian and the BBC have assisted Appleby by explaining which of the company’s documents may have been used to underpin their journalism. This will allow Appleby to initiate meaningful discussions with its clients, colleagues and regulators.

‘It is now clear that the vast majority of documents that were of interest in the Paradise Papers investigation related to the fiduciary business that is no longer owned by Appleby and so were not legally privileged documents.’

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Appleby group managing partner and Jersey Advocate Michael O’Connell said that the settlement would allow the firm to advise their clients which documents had been stolen.

‘From the outset we wanted to be able to explain to our clients and colleagues what information of theirs had been stolen,’ he said

‘That was our duty. As a result of this legal action we are well on our way to achieving our objectives.’

A Guardian spokesperson said that the Paradise Papers had ‘raised important issues in the public interest’.

A BBC spokesperson added: ‘We welcome this settlement, which preserves our ability to carry out investigative journalism in the public interest.’

The BBC and Guardian form the UK wing of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which was responsible for the Paradise Papers exposé.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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