The Paradise Papers leak in November was an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which sought to expose how politicians, corporations and high-net-worth individuals use complex financial structures in off-shore jurisdictions to hide their wealth and benefit from off-shore tax rules.
Around 13.4m confidential documents, covering the period 1950 to 2016, were leaked. Some 6.8m files related to one of the world's largest off-shore law firms, Appleby, and corporate services provider, Estera. The balance related to corporate registries in 19 jurisdictions.
Whilst the leak was smaller in scale than the Panama Papers leak in April 2016, it is generally accepted that its impact may be greater as it exposed higher-end, more sophisticated off-shore dealings than previous leaks. It also put related issues such as money-laundering, corruption, terrorism and tax evasion back on the news headlines, and gave voice to those arguing that the UK government and the EU have done nothing effective to tackle these wider issues since Panama Papers.
Organisations with potential exposure to claims arising out of an involvement in the schemes uncovered in the Paradise Papers may believe that following the leak, the likelihood of claims in respect of that exposure has increased to an extent that requires notification of circumstances to professional indemnity insurers. The leak, however, is unlikely to be sufficient to trigger a notification provision of itself. Insurers should be wary of such notifications.
More generally, it will be interesting to see whether the Paradise Papers leak will bring about law reform. Earlier in the year the government consulted on plans to introduce a new criminal offence making corporations liable for their failure to prevent economic crimes such as money-laundering, false accounting and fraud by their employees and agents. The Ministry of Justice did not respond to the consultation which ended in March, and the proposal was not included in the Tory's manifesto for the General Election in May. It remains to be seen whether this latest leak will re-ignite governmental discussions on the need for further reforms to reduce economic crime.