Panama papers leak highlights cyber risks facing all businesses, says expert, as FIFA figure comes in for scrutiny

Out-Law News | 07 Apr 2016 | 9:41 am | 2 min. read

All organisations should take the security of their systems more seriously after this week's 'Pamana Papers' leak, an expert has said.

Millions of documents reportedly detailing the use of offshore tax structures in Panama by some prominent public figures were obtained by the media, and have received widespread attention since.

Hong Kong-based technology law expert Paul Haswell of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: "These leaks illustrate that everyone is at risk of being hacked and the consequences of being hacked, be they professional services firms, large corporates, consumers or world leaders. The damages from a successful hack are potentially limitless and one can only imagine the ambit of the claims that could be made against Mossack Fonseca by some of those affected by the Panama leaks."

"In many ways, the leaks show that the use of technology and the vulnerabilities associated with that technology can be a great leveller – no-one could have imagined a leak of this scale 10 to 15 years ago, the equivalent of over 11 million documents being taken from a law firm. But they also show that ensuring your cybersecurity is up to scratch should be you and your organisation’s number one priority," said Haswell.

Civil fraud and asset recovery expert Alan Sheeley, also of Pinsent Masons said that individuals and companies need to consider very quickly whether any of the documents may shed light on their own affairs.

"If people think they may have been the subject of a fraud then these documents may be able to reveal the full extent of the fraud; who is ultimately behind certain companies and therefore transactions and more importantly they may identify where the money has gone," Sheeley said.

"However, as these documents are now in the public domain the sophisticated fraudster, who set up the offshore company years ago, will be working on their next move to avoid having to pay monies back. Victims, or possible victims, should contact civil fraud solicitors immediately to work out the best strategy to uncover the suspected fraud which may include obtaining disclosure of the 'Panama papers' and thereafter worldwide freezing orders to avoid further dissipation of the victim’s assets."

According to the latest media reports on the Panama papers leak, a deal for the sale of football broadcasting rights in Ecuador signed by new FIFA president Gianni Infantino is under scrutiny.

According to a BBC report, the Panama papers contain details of a contract Infantino signed with two men, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, who have since been accused of bribery by US authorities for their involvement with the company Cross Trading. The contract dates to when Infantino was an official at UEFA, Europe's football governing body. Swiss authorities have raided UEFA offices as part of an investigation into the deal.

"If it is found that Infantino was aware, or closed his eyes, to the relationship of Hugo and Mariano Jinkis to Cross Trading and did not knowingly obtain the full market rate for the Ecuadorian rights then this would be a breach of his fiduciary duty," Sheeley said. "Under English civil law he could be made to account to FIFA and he could be personally liable for any losses caused to FIFA."

It was reported earlier this week that insurers are facing difficulties in providing accurate estimates of their exposure to cyber risks, due to the fragmented nature of cyber insurance coverage. Insurers offer many products that cover cyber risk and this fragmentation makes it difficult to asses.

Last year Lloyd's of London published a report outlining the potential cost to insurers of a major cyber attack on the US power grid. It said it could amount to tens of billions of dollars, and that the wider cost to the US economy could hit $1 trillion in the most serious case.