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December 18, 2017

Appleby sues BBC and Guardian for return of millions of Paradise Papers files which it says were taken in ‘criminal act’

By Dominic Ponsford

The Guardian and BBC are both going to fight against a bit by Appleby to force disclosure of the Paradise papers.

Some 380 journalists working on 96 media organisations around the world shared the leak of millions of documents in order to investigate tax avoidance activities involving offshore companies.

According to The Guardian, Appleby is suing both it and the BBC for breach of confidence. And it said to be demanding the disclosure of any documents which informed The Guardian’s reporting.

A spokesperson for The Guardian 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.

“This claim could have serious consequences for investigative journalism in the UK. Ninety-six of the world’s most respected media organisations concluded there was significant public interest in undertaking the Paradise Papers project and hundreds of articles have been published in recent weeks as a result of the work undertaken by partners. We will be defending ourselves vigorously against this claim as we believe our reporting was responsible and a matter of legitimate public interest.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC will strongly defend its role and conduct in the Paradise Papers project. 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.”

Appleby told The Guardian: “Our overwhelming responsibility is to our clients and our own colleagues who have had their private and confidential information taken in what was a criminal act. We need to know firstly which of their – and our – documents were taken.

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“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.”

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