A LAW firm with a large presence in Jersey is suing the Guardian and the BBC after a significant amount of its data was handed to journalists after the so-called Paradise Papers leak.
Appleby, which has offices on the Esplanade, is demanding that the two companies hand over millions of files, which it says were stolen from the firm by hackers.
The leaked documents are reported to contain the tax affairs of dozens of companies and individuals, including Former One world champion Lewis Hamilton and the Queen’s Duchy of Lancaster estate.
The reporting also alleged that Apple had moved two subsidiaries to Jersey from Ireland after the country was forced to toughen up its tax rules by the European Union.
In their report, the BBC’s Panorama claimed that Apple had received advice from Appleby about the transfer, helping it to avoid tax on $252 billion in cash that it holds offshore.
The Jersey Financial Services Commission later said, however, that neither subsidiary was registered in the Island.
In a statement, Appleby, which is suing for breach of confidence, said that it had an overwhelming responsibility to ‘our clients and our own colleagues who have had their private and confidential information taken in what was a criminal act’.
It added: ‘We need to know firstly which of their – and our – documents were taken. We would want to explain in detail to our clients and our colleagues the extent to which their confidentiality has been attacked.
‘Despite repeated requests, the journalists have failed to provide to us copies of the stolen documents they claim to have seen. For this reason, Appleby is obliged to take legal action in order to ascertain what information has been stolen.’
Around six million confidential files outlining Appleby’s affairs were given to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, before they were shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which includes representatives from the BBC and the Guardian.
The ICIJ then launched an investigation.
A spokesman for the BBC said that it would strongly defend its role and conduct in the Paradise Papers project.
He said: ‘Our serious and responsible journalism is resulting in revelations which are clearly of the highest public interest and has revealed matters which would otherwise have remained secret.
‘Already we are seeing authorities taking action as a consequence.’
And a spokesman for the Guardian said the claim could have serious consequences for investigative journalism in the UK.
He said: ‘We can confirm that a claim has been issued against the Guardian. The claim does not challenge the truth of the stories we published.
‘Instead it is an attempt to undermine our responsible public interest journalism and to force us to to disclose documents that we regard as journalistic material.’