Why Few Americans in Panama Papers? Lawyer Doesn't Want Them

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By Associated Press

Rich and influential people around the globe have found themselves under siege since a major data leak revealed their ties to secretive financial accounts and shell companies in low-tax havens used to hide wealth.

Yet few American names have cropped up in the "Panama Papers," a trove of 11.5 million confidential records detailing such accounts. That's because the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm at the center of the scandal doesn't like taking on American clients, one of its founders says.

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Ramon Fonseca, who started the firm with Jurgen Mossack, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that their law firm has only a handful of American clients, most of them members of Panama's burgeoning expat retirement community. It's not out of any anti-Americanism or fear of the Internal Revenue Service.

"My partner is German, and I lived in Europe, and our focus has always been the European and Latin American market," Fonseca said at his law office.

"He loves the U.S. a lot, and I do, too. My kids were educated there," Fonseca added. But "as a policy we prefer not to have American clients."

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper that first obtained the documents, said the records include copies of the passports of 200 Americans and about 3,500 shareholders in offshore companies have listed addresses in the U.S. That's a tiny fraction of the more than 250,000 companies Mossack Fonseca has set up for clients in four decades of business.

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One reason for the dearth of American clients may be because such companies can be easily created in U.S. states such as Wyoming, Delaware and Nevada, attracting less attention than they might in Panama, a country with a reputation for shady financial deals and money laundering.