Reports: Germany issues warrants for Panama Papers lawyers

International

BERLIN (AP) — The two founders of a Panama-based law firm at the center of a tax haven scandal exposed by the so-called Panama Papers are being sought on international arrest warrants issued by Germany, according to media reports Tuesday.

Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR reported that German-born Juergen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca are being sought by Cologne prosecutors on charges of accessory to tax evasion and forming a criminal organization.

Cologne prosecutors confirmed to the outlets that they had issued international arrest warrants for two people, but would not give further details and did not pick up their telephones for further comment.

Fonseca said via Twitter that his firm had sold corporations to a German bank, which had in turn resold them to business people for tax purposes. He said the firm was not involved in those subsequent transactions. “In my opinion, they have included us to continue the discrediting attack of the European Union against Panama,” he wrote.

Panama’s Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Panama Papers include a collection of 11 million secret financial documents that illustrated how some of the world’s richest people hide their money. The records were first leaked to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, and were shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which began publishing collaborative reports with news organizations in 2016.

The repercussions of the leaks were far-ranging, prompting the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and bringing scrutiny to the leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, Chinese politicians and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.

U.S. federal prosecutors have alleged that law firm Mossack Fonseca conspired to circumvent American laws to maintain the wealth of its clients and conceal tax dollars owed to the IRS. They have alleged the scheme dates to 2000 and involved sham foundations and shell companies in Panama, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

Fonseca has said the firm, which closed in 2018, had no control over how its clients might use offshore vehicles created for them.

Both Mossack and Fonseca have Panamanian citizenship, NDR reported, and Panama does not extradite its own citizens so it is unclear whether either will ever be brought to Germany for trial.

Neither Mossack nor Fonseca responded to Sueddeutsche Zeitung’s requests for comment, the newspaper said.

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