NYT: U.S. Prosecutors Bring Their First Charges Over the Panama Papers

By Jesse Drucker

Dec. 4, 2018

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed an indictment on Tuesday that contained the first charges brought in the United States in connection with the so-called Panama Papers leak.

The indictment, which a grand jury returned in late September, names four men connected to Mossack Fonseca, the shuttered offshore law firm whose activities were laid bare in the leak. The men were charged with tax fraud, money laundering and other crimes as part of alleged schemes that stretch back decades.

Three of the men — an American accountant, a German investment adviser and a German client — have been arrested. The fourth man, a Panamanian lawyer at the center of the accusations, remained at large.

The charges were the second law enforcement action in the past week that stemmed from the Panama Papers. The German police raided the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt on Thursday as part of an investigation into whether the bank helped criminals launder money through offshore tax havens.

The indictment, unsealed in the Southern District of New York, focuses on three advisers: Ramses Owens, a Panamanian lawyer at Mossack Fonseca; Dirk Brauer, a German investment adviser for Mossfon Asset Management, an asset management affiliated with the law firm; and Richard Gaffey, an American accountant in Boston.

According to the indictment, the men helped United States taxpayers evade taxes by using undisclosed foreign accounts and shell companies in places like the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong and Panama. They also instructed them on how to repatriate those offshore funds to the United States while concealing them from the I.R.S. Among the clients who participated in the scheme, prosecutors said, was Harald Joachim von der Goltz, an 81-year-old German citizen who lived in the United States and began a business relationship with Mossack Fonseca in the 1980s. According to federal prosecutors, he avoided taxes by claiming that accounts he failed to report to the I.R.S. were owned by his 102-year-old mother.

The Panama Papers — millions of confidential documents from the Mossack Fonseca law firm — were first revealed in April 2016 through a collaboration between the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the nonprofit International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The documents shed light on the often illicit methods used by the wealthy and powerful to launder money, hide income and evade taxes through the use of offshore bank accounts and shell companies in island havens. The law firm shut down in March.

The original leak revealed the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars to accounts connected to a cellist and close friend of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as well as a British Virgin Islands company used by Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Iceland, which led to his resignation. Earlier this year, Pakistan’s former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison after the Panama Papers revealed undeclared property owned by his family overseas.

Mr. Gaffey, an accountant at Elder, Gaffey & Paine in Marlborough, Mass., was arrested in Boston on Tuesday. Neither he nor his lawyers responded to requests for comment Tuesday evening.

The following two tabs change content below.

Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.

Latest posts by Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL (see all)