A Sinn Féin member of the European parliament (MEP), Matt Carthy, has criticised law firm Appleby, claiming it “refused” to meet with MEPs in the Isle of Man.
The “snub” occurred during a visit to the island by the European parliament’s TAX3 special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance.
The offshore law firm was at the centre of the Paradise Papers scandal after it admitted in 2017 that the business was hacked in 2016, with details of offshore tax issues surrounding high net worth individuals exposed.
The scandal broke when around 13.4 million documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with a US-based organisation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Carthy said: “This is the second time that the law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers, Appleby, turned down our request to engage with the TAX3 committee.
“First, both Appleby and Baker McKenzie refused to attend a hearing on the role of intermediaries in the Paradise Papers in June. Now Appleby’s Isle of Man branch has refused to attend a meeting with MEPs during our visit to the island.
“Appleby, along with accountancy firm EY, was at the heart of the VAT avoidance scheme revealed by the Paradise Papers leak to be operating in the Isle of Man. The firm’s refusal to meet with us is more than disappointing – it is unacceptable.”
Carthy had tweeted on the 22 November 2018: “Appleby Law firm was where the #ParadisePapers emerged, of course. The firm had agreed to meet the EP delegation while we were in the Isle of Man, which was surprising; but they have cancelled at the last minute, which wasn’t.”
But Appleby said in a statement: “It is unfortunate that the tweet was inaccurate. The first point is that a cancellation suggests that a meeting was set up in the first place. It wasn’t. Secondly, we sent a response to the TAX3 Committee on 7 November to decline their invitation to meet, some 15 days before their scheduled visit. This is not last minute.”
In May, International Adviser reported that Appleby had dropped its legal claim against the journalists who published news stories based on documents taken from its Bermuda office.
Carthy also spoke about his visit to the Isle of Man for the special committee to assess issues surrounding tax evasion and tax avoidance on the island.
He said: “It was positive to hear of the government’s plans for new legislation on economic substance, aimed at tackling letterbox companies.
“I appreciate the frank and open discussions that we held with island officials from across various departments during our visit about these issues, which are by no means limited to the Isle of Man.
“Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about one of the key players in the Isle of Man financial services industry, namely Appleby, whose refusal to engage with us demonstrated their contempt for transparency and public accountability.
“It is clear that self-regulation of the legal and accountancy profession is not working, and it is well past time that the lawyers and tax advisers who enable, design and promote these damaging schemes are properly regulated and held to account.”