The founding partners of the Panamanian law firm at the centre of last year’s “Panama Papers” expose have been arrested following a raid of the firm’s Panama City’s offices last week.
Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack have both pleaded innocent to charges of money laundering, in connection with an investigation into a sprawling Brazilian bribery scandal, according to reports.
In a statement, Panamanian attorney general Kenia Porcell said the law firm had allegedly worked with contacts in Brazil to destroy evidence related to those implicated in the bribery scandal, which is said to have had to do with a Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht.
As reported, the Panama Papers expose hit the world in early April of last year, when more than eleven million documents that comprise the “Panama Papers” trove were reportedly leaked from the Panama City offices of Mossack Fonseca to a German newspaper, which subsequently forwarded them to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It, in turn, released them to some 107 media organisations, including the BBC’s Panorama TV show and the UK’s Guardian newspaper, in 78 countries around the world. , which simultaneously began to publish and broadcast material based on the documents in early April.
At the time, Mossack Fonseca — which had and still does have offices around the world — denied the media reports that suggested it had been a conduit for tax evasion, and defended its “high standards”.
There is information which “allegedly identifies the Panamanian firm as a criminal organisation that is dedicated to hiding assets or money from suspicious origins,” said Panama’s Attorney General Kenia Porcell, announcing the arrests.
According to press reports, Fonseca and Mossack are being held rather than freed on bail because they are considered a flight risk. One report quoted a defence lawyer for the two men as saying the evidence against them was “weak”.