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Panama court acquits 28 in Panama Papers trial

June 29, 2024

The 28 defendants were accused of money laundering in cases linked to the Panama Papers and "Operation Car Wash" scandals. Their names were not provided in the court statement.

A sign of Panama against the skyline of Panama City
In 2016, a trove of financial documents were leaked which revealed how many of the world's wealthy stashed their assets into offshore companiesImage: Erick Marciscano/REUTERS

A Panama court on Friday acquitted 28 people charged with money laundering in cases at the center of the Panama Papers and Operation Car Wash scandals.

The names of those acquitted were not provided in the statement.

Precautionary measures were lifted against all 28 defendants by Judge Baloisa Marquinez. She also said one criminal process was canceled due to the death of one of the defendants.

She fined 10 witnesses with 100 balboas (€93 or $100) who had not complied with summons.

Among those acquitted were co-founders of the now defunct law firm Mossack Fonseca, German national Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca. Prosecutors had been seeking 12 years in prison for both of them, which is the maximum sentence for money laundering.

Fonseca, a Panamanian, died in May this year.

Evidence 'not sufficient and conclusive'

Marquinez said evidence collected from Mossack Fonseca's servers did not comply with the chain of custody, raising doubts about its "authenticity and integrity."

"The rest of the evidence was not sufficient and conclusive to determine the criminal responsibility of the defendants," said the court statement.

In 2016, leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca showed offshore accounts where wealth had been stashed, causing scandal and prompting worldwide investigations.

Accounts in tax havens were linked to people like former Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, football star Lionel Messi, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and many more.  

Operation Car Wash

"Operation Car Wash" was an anti-corruption probe that began in Brazil in 2014. The investigation exposed corruption across Latin America, with many politicians and business leaders being convicted. This included former Brazilian presidents Fernando Collor de Mello and Michel Temer, as well as current president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In her judgment, Marquinez said it could not be determined that money from illicit sources had entered Panama from Brazil with the purpose of helping conceal crimes.

tg/kb (AFP, Reuters)