13 February 2017
Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, the founders of Mossack Fonseca legal firm have been detained in Panama, according to the country’s attorney general’s office. They were taken into custody because they were thought to be flight risk because of their financial means. They are being questioned about their role in a huge corruption scandal in Brazil. Two other employees of Mossack Fonseca, lawyer Edison Teano and legal director Sara Montenegro, are also said to be under investigation.
Panamanian prosecutors raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca on Thursday. In a press conference on Kenia Porcell, Panama’s attorney general, said that the firm’s Brazilian representative had allegedly been instructed to conceal documents and to remove evidence of illegal activities related to the Lava Jato case.
The attorney General said, there is information that “allegedly identifies the Panamanian firm as a criminal organisation that is dedicated to hiding assets or money from suspicious origins,”
Mossack Fonseca shot into notoriety after the leak of Panama Papers which contained 11 million documents. These documents showed how some wealthy people were using offshore firms to evade tax and hide ill-gotten gains.
Mr Fonseca had served as a minister in Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela’s government but stepped aside earlier in 2016 after a spate of allegations surfaced linking his law firm to corruption in Petrobras.
Fonseca has denied any connection to the scandal involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. Attorney General Kenia Porcell said that “this investigation in principle is not related to Odebrecht, but to the Lava Jato case.” The attorney general also said that the investigation is a joint effort by prosecutors in: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Switzerland and the United States.
Odebrecht is a Brazilian conglomerate consisting of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals and petrochemicals. It operates in the United States also.
Lava Jato is the code name for the Operation Car Wash probe involving Brazilian oil company Petrobras.
The picture above shows Ramon Fonseca.