The head of the City of London Law Society (CLLS) has said there may be good reasons why a number of City law firms are named as intermediaries to offshore entities in the latest Panama Papers leak.
Top firms Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Norton Rose Fulbright are among those identified in decades-old documents connected to Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca that have been made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by any firm.
David Hobart, chief executive of the CLLS, told the Gazette that it was not surprising that City firms had been named and that there ‘might not be anything remotely dubious’ about their involvement with offshore accounts.
He said: ‘There may be perfectly good reasons why any law firm might want to do its work with a firm in Panama and a lot of our members are international law firms.’
The new documents list Clifford Chance’s London office as an intermediary to 19 offshore entities including Magnolia Associates, Belcor Trading and Luminy Shipping, all set up between 1979 and 1990.
Clifford Chance’s Hong Kong, Paris, Dubai and US offices are identified as intermediaries to various offshore entities. The most recent entity to be set up was CPME Properties, which was incorporated in 2004 and linked to the firm’s Dubai office. The firm declined to comment.
Norton Rose was named as an intermediary to three offshore entities named as Bryson Associates, Kestrel Associates and Leigham. The entities were set up in 1987 and 1988 and have all now been dissolved.
Allen & Overy’s London office was linked to seven offshore entities incorporated between 1982 and 1994. Two of the firm’s offices in the United Arab Emirates were also identified in connection with the Panama Papers. According to the data, the firm's office in the UAE set up two entities, Parma Foodstuff Holdings and Samsha, in 2005. Allen & Overy said it could not comment on client matters.
Taylor Wessing was listed as an intermediary to six offshore entities created in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. All the entities were set up in 1993 and 1994. Two of these have now dissolved; the status of the others is listed as 'defaulted'.
Meanwhile Mishcon De Reya is listed as an intermediary for the offshore entity Black Eagle Shipping, which was incorporated in 1985, and the Hong Kong office for Linklaters & Paines, now Linklaters, was identified as helping to set up an offshore entity, Miracle Securities, in 1987.
Clyde & Co was named over its connection to Mira Oil Resources Limited, which was incorporated in 1990.
After the initial Panama Papers leak, the Solicitors Regulation Authority said it would contact each of the England and Wales firms named in the 11.5m documents. The regulator was unable to reveal immediately how many responses it has so far received.