The Solicitors Regulation Authority has said it wants to see documents released as part of the Pandora papers to establish whether any law firm has breached anti-money laundering rules.
Several firms have been named this week as part of the ongoing coverage from leaked files of companies that specialise in creating offshore companies and trusts. The Guardian reports today that London firm Farrer & Co took instructions from a client called Abubakar Bagadu, a Nigerian politician accused of involvement with a corruption scheme through which billions of dollars were stolen from the state.
Farrer & Co, renowned as legal advisers to the Royal Family, told the newspaper it carried out extensive due diligence on Bagadu and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the firm’s part.
The SRA has specific requirements of firms to carry out proper checks on clients before taking them on, as part of regulations to prevent money laundering. Firms need to risk assess relevant clients, identify and verify their identities and identify their sources of funds and wealth. Where relevant to the size and nature of the business, firms must also undertake an independent audit, screen their staff and appoint a money laundering compliance officer.
There is no suggestion that any firm named in the Pandora papers is in breach of these rules, but the SRA wants to see details of what information has been released to check if it needs to be involved.
A spokesperson said: ‘We have asked partner agencies to share any relevant information about potential misconduct by any law firms connected with the Pandora papers. If there is evidence of potential misconduct, we consider any next steps.’
The Pandora papers is the largest ever leak of data showing details of offshore accounting, with 11.9m files leaked from an unidentified source to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The papers reveal the tax haven links of 14 offshore service providers who provide services to individuals or companies seeking to hold assets in an offshore account. The leak has raised new questions about the way money is moved around using respectable outlets.
Other legal practices named this week include Panamanian firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee; a firm founded by Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades, and international firm Baker McKenzie. All have denied any wrongdoing and there is no suggestion they have breached any rules.