U.S. Charges Four in Panama Papers Conspiracy

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Nearly three years after the massive leak of secret offshore shell-company documents known as the Panama Papers, federal prosecutors announced criminal charges Tuesday against four people, including Ramses Owens, a former lawyer for Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian firm that helped dictators, drug lords and the ultra-wealthy hide their cash, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Owens was charged in New York City with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit tax evasion and money laundering. His name appears in nearly 100,000 files in the database of leaked files maintained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which pulled together reporters across the globe. He left the firm after the April 2016 publication of the Panama Papers by a journalistic partnership.

Also charged in the alleged conspiracy are German citizen Dirk Brauer, an investment adviser for Mossfon Asset Management, which worked closely with the parent law firm to invest and manage client money; Richard Gaffey, an American accountant based outside Boston; and Harald Joachim von der Goltz, a German who formerly lived in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Justice said the four men “defrauded the U.S. government through a large scale, intercontinental money-laundering and wire-fraud scheme.” The indictment revealed that federal investigators used undercover agents and that one cooperating Mossack Fonseca client wore a wire. “These defendants went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent U.S. tax laws in order to maintain their wealth and the wealth of their clients,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. Shruti Shah of the Coalition for Integrity, which advocates for financial transparency, said, “This may be just the beginning. Intermediaries who help people engage in illicit activities like setting up shell companies to hide their assets should really think hard about what they are doing. The U.S. is going after the enablers, not just the people who evade taxes.”

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