Mossack Fonseca to close Jersey, Gib, IoM offices

Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers controversy, is to close its offices in Jersey, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, according to reports.

Some of the reports cited as their source Twitter, where Mossack Fonseca’s Twitter feed, @Mossfon, features a series of statements posted on 27 May which state that “Our offices in Jersey, Isle of Man and Gibraltar will be ceasing operations, but we will continue serving all of our clients”, and that the firm  had taken the decision “to consolidate our service office network” in order to “better serve our customers”.

The firm said it was closing the offices “with great regret”, the BBC, the Guardian and other media outlets reported.

The law firm didn’t immediately reply to International Investment’s requests for comment.

The news comes almost two months after more than 100 media organisations  published the first reports about a trove of some 11.5 million stolen documents that had been taken from Mossack Fonseca’s archives by an un-named whistleblower, and passed by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper to the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which oversaw the process of their release to the world.

The documents were said to date back decades, and contained the names of a number of prominent individuals, including politicians, with the result that the prime minister of  Iceland was forced to resign, and politicians in other countries, including the UK, were forced to explain how their names had ended up in the law firm’s files.

Mossack Fonseca’s decision to close some of its offices is likely to be seen by some as an indication that the market for services in offshore centres is expected to decline as a result of pressure from larger countries, including the US and others in the G20, to force individuals and businesses not to make use of  “tax havens”.

This is in spite of growing evidence that some of the so-called “offshore” jurisdictions have transparency standards and anti-money-laundering strategies in place that are as good if not better than many of the G20 countries, including the US and the UK.

Meanwhile, The Guardian report noted that Mossack Fonseca’s Twitter statements didn’t mention earlier reports which it said had stated that Mossack Fonseca’s affiliate in the US state of Nevada has resigned as the agent for 1,000 companies it administered there.

According to The Guardian, “MF Corporate Services, based in Las Vegas, filed notice that it is to resign as registered agent for all 1,025 entities on its books, the Nevada secretary of state said on 23 May”.

Throughout its ordeal, Mossack Fonseca has consistently maintained that it has “never once in its history been charged with criminal wrongdoing, or even been formally investigated in connection with allegations of the same”. It has described the stories based on the Panama Papers document leak as “mischaracterisations”, and at some length, on a website separate from its main one, mossfonmedia.com, detailed its side of the Panama Papers story. (Excerpt: “Our business is regulated by several different oversight and enforcement agencies, including the Banking Superintendence of Panama and the Intendency of Non-financial Regulated Services Providers. In addition, we have always complied with international protocols such as the Financial Action Task Force and the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)…”)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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