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Panama Papers Lawyers Face 12-Year Prison Sentence

The Panamanian prosecutor’s office asked on Wednesday for 12 years in prison, the maximum penalty for money laundering, for Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, founders of the now-defunct law firm at the epicenter of the international “Panama Papers” scandal.

Prosecutor Isis Soto asked the court for a “maximum” sentence against the heads of the Mossack Fonseca law firm as perpetrators of the crime of money laundering, during the eighth day of the trial taking place for the “Panama Papers”.

Mossack and Fonseca are also accused of “concealing, covering up and providing false information to banking entities for the opening of accounts and concealing the ownership of assets”, said the prosecutor.

“Messrs. Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca (…) received and transferred funds from illicit activities that occurred in Germany and Argentina,” added Soto.

The prosecutor also asked to convict 24 other defendants, mainly former employees of the firm, and requested the acquittal of three accused. Previously, the judiciary reported 27 defendants in this money laundering case.

“We have requested the conviction in accordance with the criminal quality or participation of each one as perpetrators, as primary accomplices and as secondary accomplices,” said the prosecutor.

Slush fund

Due to the scandal, the Mossack Fonseca law firm had to close, while Panama’s international image, accused of being a tax haven, was seriously affected.

According to the prosecution, Mossack, 76, and Fonseca, 71, are responsible for facilitating through the firm the creation of opaque companies in which executives of the German multinational Siemens deposited millions of euros outside the company’s real accounting.

This “slush fund” would have been used to hide money from the payment of commissions. The Panamanian firm, according to the prosecution, was also used to store money from a massive scam in Argentina.

The trial began eight years after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the “Panama Papers” on April 3, 2016.

This investigation, based on the leak of 11.5 million documents from the Mossack Fonseca firm, showed how heads of state and government, political leaders, personalities from finance, sports and the arts hid properties, companies, assets and profits to evade taxes or launder money.

To do this, they created opaque companies, through the Panamanian firm, in order to open bank accounts and create front foundations with the aim of hiding money, in some cases from illicit activities, according to the investigation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and former leaders of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson; Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif; Britain, David Cameron; and Argentina, Mauricio Macri; as well as Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi were some of the names mentioned then.

I am not responsible

“I am not responsible” for these crimes, Mossack declared before Judge Baloísa Marquínez at the beginning of the trial on April 8.

“The truth is that after more than 500 volumes [of files] we find that [we only] have the Siemens case [in Germany] and a case in Argentina, out of the thousands and thousands of people who were supposedly involved,” said lawyer Daika Indira Levy, Fonseca’s defender, on the second day of the trial.

After the “Panama Papers”, the Central American country made some legal reforms, which allowed it to leave the “gray list” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2023. However, Panama remains on the list of territories considered “tax havens” by the European Union.

The trial was supposed to be held in 2021 but was delayed for various reasons.

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