The two main partners of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the centre of the so-called ‘Panama papers’ scandal, have been arrested, a media report on Friday said.
The arrests of Ramon Fonseca Mora and Jurgen Mossack came on Thursday hours after the Panamanian authorities accused them of being involved in the ‘Lava Jato’ corruption case in Brazil.
Fonseca, a former aide of Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, and Mossack, were transferred from the Public Prosecutor’s Office headquarters to police custody here, defence lawyer Elias Solano said.
Solano told reporters outside the Department of Judicial Investigation that his clients would spend the night there. However, he pointed out that there were no precautionary measures applied as the legal procedure was still ongoing.
The firm, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, acted as a criminal organisation dedicated to hiding assets and money of dubious origins within the ‘Lava Jato‘ (Car Wash) case, according to an investigation, Attorney General Kenia Porcell said.
The law firm instructed its Person in charge in Brazil to “hide documents and eliminate evidence” and to facilitate the transfer of the bribe money to Panama “washed or laundered”, Porcell added.
He said the charges against the two were the result of a year-long investigation conducted in collaboration with prosecutors in other countries, including Brazil, Switzerland and the US.
The offices of Mossack Fonseca that also faces probe related to the so-called Panama Papers, were raided on Thursday shortly before the two main partners appeared at the Prosecutor’s Office.
Meanwhile, Fonseca has accused former President Varela of receiving “donations” during the 2014 election campaign from Brazilian multinational company Odebrecht, involved in a transnational mega-scandal of bribes.
Fonseca Mora also accused the Prosecutor’s Office of being arbitrary and of using him as a “scapegoat” to delay the probe. The Lava Jato investigation has been looking into a massive scandal involving Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras and dozens of businessmen and politicians.
The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners.
The documents showed myriad ways in which the rich exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.