Raid at Mossack Fonseca, but no Panama Papers arrests | News | DW | 14.04.2016
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Raid at Mossack Fonseca, but no Panama Papers arrests

Panamanian authorities have seized scores of digital files from Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of a recent leaks scandal. However, no arrests have been made in the Panama Papers investigation.

A 27-hour raid in Panama ended late Wednesday without any arrests at the law offices of Mossack Fonseca. The massive Panama Papers leak has generated global outrage over the relative ease with which the world's richest people can financially cross borders to hide their wealth and avoid taxes in their home countries.

"We have not ordered a freezing of accounts for the moment," said Javier Caraballo, the public prosecutor tasked with fighting organized crime. "At the moment, we do not have any convincing elements that would allow us to make any decision."

The 11.5 million documents span four decades - and the globe - and detail how well-placed figures in Russia, Britain, Pakistan, China and dozens of other countries use offshore companies or other schemes to hide wealth. Governments around the world have launched investigations into possible wrongdoing by the rich and powerful, including money laundering and tax evasion.

A German reporter received the leak in 2015 and shared the information with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Reporters around the world worked collaboratively and quietly for a year before breaking the news on April 3.

'Investigate these scoundrels'

German-born Jürgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca - a friend and, until March, cabinet adviser to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela - insist that they have done nothing illegal. They pointed out that no law prohibits offshore companies and say they bear no responsibility for what their clients did with their shell companies.

Since the revelations broke, Varela's government has sought to keep Panama off of international blacklists of countries that facilitate money laundering and tax evasion. The issue has also caused domestic unrest.

"We demand justice," said Luis Gonzalez, the leader of Panama's construction workers union. "We cannot permit a law firm to cast doubts on the country. Investigate these scoundrels and lock them up."

Ecuador will investigate possible crimes committed by nationals implicated in the Panama Papers. Three nationals were named in the initial reports, including a prosecutor and the president's cousin, a former central bank head who is living in the United States to avoid charges of falsifying a professional degree. A Mossack Fonseca employee had also served as an adviser in Ecuador's Intelligence Ministry.

The leak has forced Iceland's prime minister to quit following revelations about his family's holdings and saw UK Prime Minister David Cameron answer uncomfortable questions about his policies and patrimony in parliament on Monday.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has called for a global register of the beneficiaries of shell companies.

mkg/bw (EFE, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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