Tag Archives: Mossack Fonseca

Panama Papers: The Downfall of a Scandalous Firm

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Three days after the Panama Papers were published at the beginning of April 2016, Jürgen Mossack spoke to the Wall Street Journal. The story put his law firm Mossack Fonseca (Mossfon) at the center of a global scandal that was covered by more than 100 media outlets around the world. The story revealed the law firm’s dark business dealings, which included links to Mexican drug cartels and one of the Syrian regime’s biggest financiers, as well as to dictators, arms smugglers, and tax evaders. One report described how the billions were funneled through an offshore network of president Vladimir Putin’s best friend. Jürgen Mossack’s law firm allegedly enabled corruption, helped its clients breach sanctions, and made a slew of other crimes possible. At the same time, Mossfon’s activities covered the perpetrators’ tracks.

In the days before the Panama Papers story broke, Mossack ignored all requests for comment, including the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s. In the interview with the Wall Street Journal, the German-born lawyer was defiant and aggressive. While he admitted that mistakes had been made, he denied that his law firm had broken any laws. He also stated that Mossack Fonseca would not just give up and “go plant bananas or something”. Rather, Mossack fully intended to keep doing business as usual.

Read on.

EXPERTS URGE PANAMA TO REFORM FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY

Panama must urgently address the perceived opacity of its offshore business model and do more to stop dark money flowing through its financial system, a report by a government-appointed panel of experts says.

The five-person Committee of Experts, appointed by the government of Panama on April 29 to advise the government on reforms to help the country move on from the global scandal of Panama Papers, delivered its report to President Juan Carlos Varela on Friday last week. The report was made public on Sunday.

“The moment has come,” the report says. “The country can no longer postpone decision-making in this field.”

The committee’s report comes more than seven months after the publication of a series of news stories by ICIJ and more than 100 media partners. The Panama Papers, as they are now known, revealed the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm founded in Panama that has helped create offshore and sometimes secretive structures used by world leaders, wealthy individuals, drug lords and financial fraudsters.

The Committee of Experts’ 23-page report includes more than 30 recommendations for Panama, including policy reforms, tweaks and additions to Panama’s diplomatic toolbox such as the creation of a permanent “advisory committee” to implement the report’s recommendations.

The report, which devotes significant sections to praise of Panama’s economic growth and its “attractive” place in the global economy, also recommends strengthening Panama’s financial and non-financial regulators.

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Panama raids Mossack Fonseca property, seizes shredded papers

Panamanian investigators on Friday raided a property used by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of a massive leak of offshore financial data, removing bags full of shredded documents as evidence, a local prosecutor said.

“We have secured a large amount of evidence found in the location,” said organized crime investigator Javier Caraballo.

He said they also found many shredded papers, which they removed as evidence.

In a statement, Mossack Fonseca said it had digitized all its documents and that the shredded papers taken from its premises were bound for recycling. The law firm added that as a result of a previous search, prosecutors already had copies of all the documents they removed on Friday.

Leaks from the Panama-based law firm, dubbed the “Panama Papers,” have embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies.

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Peru raids offices of Panama Papers firm

Fallout from the explosive Panama Papers leaks spread to Peru in the midst of a bitter presidential election battle when authorities raided the Lima office of the Panamanian law firm Mossak Fonseca.

A team of 20 tax officials and armed national police officers on Monday seized financial documents from the property located across the street from Panama’s embassy, the National Superintendency of Tax Administration (SUNAT) said.

“The team SUNAT has been conducting a series of inquiries … focusing on whether offshore companies created through Mossack Fonseca served to commit unlawful acts such as tax evasion and fraud in our country,” SUNAT said in a statement.

The Panama Papers are based on documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca offices. The global firm has no official standing in Peru but is represented there by Peruvian economist Monica Ycaz Clerc, Ojo Público reported.

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Four out of five largest banks in Latvia noted in Panama leak

Finansinspektionen, the Swedish finance authority, on Friday extended the range of its investigations and is now investigating four banks in connection to the ‘Panama Papers’ offshore scandal. Three of the banks are key players in Latvia,reported Rus.lsm.lv Monday.

Previously Nordea was criticized for its involvement with Mossack Fonseca and the information uncovered by the Panama Papers leak.

As of now Finansinspektionen has extended its investigation to include Nordea, Handelsbanken, SEB, and Swedbank. Only Handelsbanken does not have a Latvian office.

According to Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, these banks are noted in the Panama Papers, with Nordea featuring most substantially.

Keeping in mind that Norwegian DNB and Latvian Rietumu have also been named in the leaked documents, reported Rus.lsm.lv, four out of five largest banks in Latvia–judging by the number of clients (DNB, Nordea, SEB, and Swedbank make the top 5) or the volume of assets (Rietumu, Nordea, SEB, and Swedbank)–have been named in the scandal.

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Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca bragged about New Zealand’s easy trust system

On a side note: The Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists identified New Zealand as among 21 tax havens used by Mossack Fonseca, the Panama law firm at the center of the offshore accounts scandal.

Secretive Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca bragged to clients how easy New Zealand laws made it for foreign investors to hide their tax-free profits.

Prime Minister John Key was forced to defend the country’s tax laws last week, dismissing a report that detailed the offshore trusts set up in New Zealand for Malta’s Energy Minister, Konrad Mizzi, and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

However, in 2012 Mossack Fonseca’s New Zealand staff reported advice they received from an executive at Nexus Trust: “NZ has very weak laws in regard to due diligence; they only require utility bill and passport. Trust companies are not required to hold a licence.”

In Malta, a public protest has called for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat over the news that Mizzi and Schembri set up secret holdings in Panama and New Zealand linked to a Dubai bank account.

In August 2013, Mossack Fonseca came through with an order for Karl Cini, a partner at Maltese financial adviser Nexia, for three Panamanian companies.

Tillgate Inc would be controlled by Schembri, Hearnville Inc would be controlled by the newly appointed Energy Minister, Mizzi, and a third company, Egrant had no details of its owner.

The companies would lie dormant for a year, as the Maltese investors contemplated the next step: New Zealand trusts.

“Can you send me ASAP the quote for the COMBO Pack … This is high priority,” an American financial intermediary, Michael Del Vecchio, emailed Mossack Fonseca’s New Zealand office in March 2014.

The combo packs he was chasing were a combination of New Zealand foreign trusts (which pay no tax on foreign income) and what is described as Look Through Companies (LTCs), which could be owned by the trusts, and which also pay zero tax on offshore earnings.

Buy them in combination and Mossack Fonseca would cut $1900 off the price. Del Vecchio ordered four combos.

Cutting prices was part of Mossack Fonseca’s marketing drive in New Zealand. “Chase the money,” head office in Panama had ordered.Read on.

 

Long before the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonesca’s China office was bragging about its connections to Beijing

Yahoo News:

Long before the Panama Papers leaks put law firm Mossack Fonseca on front pages around the world, the company was already well known among a certain class of Chinese investor -– and to the government.

The tight-lipped firm says it has cooperated with authorities in Beijing and state-backed banks to help Chinese companies take their business international, according to information gleaned from transcripts of speeches by the company’s representatives and archived versions of its Chinese web site.

On several occasions, it has recommended Chinese companies cloak themselves in offshore disguises to avoid foreign restrictions on and opposition to acquisitions.

Since setting up its mainland China operation in 2000, Mossack Fonseca has had at least 11 offices in the country. It currently has eight, including one in Hong Kong.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which coordinated the Panama Papers reports, said that in 2015 Mossack Fonseca collected fees for more than 16,300 offshore companies incorporated in offices in China and Hong Kong, accounting for 29 percent of its “active companies worldwide”.

According to ICIJ, the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong housed the greatest number of intermediaries, banks and law firms that set up offshore corporations on behalf of clients.

The group said the data includes the names of relatives of at least eight current or former members of China’s Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s most powerful body.

Despite that, until the leaks began last weekend, Mossack Fonseca appears to have been largely unknown among international corporate lawyers in China.