In 2016, the Finnish tax authorities ordered public broadcaster YLE to hand over documents leaked from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. Today, the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) held that the Tax Administration had no right to demand YLE to hand over documents. Our Tax partner, Jouni Weckström represented YLE in this extremely interesting case, which will serve as a precedent in future disclosure obligation matters.
The so-called Panama Papers leak included more than 11 million documents. They were originally handed over to a German newspaper by an anonymous source.
Some 400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries joined in analysing the data. As part of this unprecedented effort, two YLE reporters were given access to the documents. They found that a number of Finnish individuals and firms were involved in setting up and taking advantage of offshore tax havens.
The Finnish Tax Administration requested a full surrender of and access to all the related material held by YLE, but YLE denied. Even if the matter itself entailed a strong and clear context of weighing of the freedom of speech and the protection of journalistic source as constitutional rights against the obligation to surrender third party information, the SAC did not find a need to go that deep. In other words, the case was decided based on “just” tax procedural rules whereby a request for full surrender with no specified case to be assessed is not in accordance with the law.