Juergen Mossack, partner of the law firm Mossack-Fonseca, leaves the Supreme Court during the trial of the "Panama Papers" money laundering case in Panama City, April 8, 2024

Panama Papers case opens with 27 accused of money laundering

Juergen Mossack, partner of the law firm Mossack-Fonseca, leaves the Supreme Court during the trial of the “Panama Papers” money laundering case in Panama City, April 8, 2024

THE trial of 27 people charged in connection with the worldwide “Panama Papers” money-laundering operation started on Monday in a Panamanian criminal court.

Those on trial include the owners of Mossack-Fonseca, a law firm at the heart of the massive document leak in 2016.

The Panama Papers include a collection of 11 million secret financial documents that illustrate how some of the world’s richest people hide their money.

The repercussions have been far-ranging, prompting the resignation of Iceland’s former prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and bringing scrutiny to the leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, among others.

The often-delayed trial opened on Monday, with lawyers Juergen Mossack, Ramon Fonseca and other former representatives, lawyers or ex-employees of the firm facing money-laundering charges.

Mr Mossack was present in the courtroom, saying: “I am not guilty of such acts.”

Lawyers for Mr Fonseca said he was in a hospital in Panama.

The case centres on allegations the firm set up shell companies to acquire properties in Panama with money from a sprawling corruption scheme in Brazil known as the “car wash,” or lava jato in Portuguese.

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

Both Mr Mossack and Mr Fonseca have Panamanian citizenship, and Panama does not extradite its own citizens.

The records were first leaked to the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, and were shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which began publishing collaborative reports with news organisations in 2016.

United States federal prosecutors have alleged that Mossack Fonseca conspired to circumvent US laws to maintain the wealth of its clients and conceal tax dollars owed to the US Internal Revenue Service.

They claim the scheme dates to 2000 and involved sham foundations and shell companies in Panama, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

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