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Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca Raided by Organized Crime Prosecutors

A half dozen police officers set up a perimeter around the offices of Mossack Fonseca while prosecutors searched inside for documents.
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/ Source: Reuters

PANAMA CITY — Organized crime prosecutors raided the offices of the Mossack Fonseca law firm Tuesday looking for evidence of money laundering and financing terrorism following a leak of documents about tax havens it set up for wealthy international clients.

Soon after news reports based on a trove of documents from the firm began emerging more than a week ago, Panama's government had said it would investigate.

Image: Police officers stand guard at the entrance of Mossack Fonseca
Police officers stand guard at the entrance of the Mossack Fonseca in Panama City on Tuesday.CARLOS JASSO / Reuters

A half dozen police officers set up a perimeter around the offices while prosecutors searched inside for documents. They were under the command of prosecutor Javier Caravallo, who specializes in organized crime and money laundering.

The attorney general's office said in a statement that the objective of the raid was "to obtain documentation linked to the information published in news articles that establish the use of the firm in illicit activities." It said searches also were made at other subsidiaries of the firm in Panama and at the telephone company's computer support center.

Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing, saying it only set up offshore financial accounts and anonymous shell companies for clients and was not involved in how those accounts were used.

The law firm said on its Twitter account Tuesday night that it "continues to cooperate with authorities in investigations begin made at our headquarters."

The search came a day after intellectual property prosecutors visited Mossack Fonseca to follow up on the firm's allegations that a computer hack led to the leak of millions of documents about tax havens.

Image: Mossack Fonseca's headquarters raided by police
Police raid the headquarters of Mossack Fonseca in Panama City on Tuesday.Alejandro Bolivar / EPA

The firm filed a complaint charging the security breach shortly before the first media reports working with the documents offered details on how politicians, celebrities and companies around the globe were hiding assets in offshore accounts and shell companies.

"Finally the real criminals are being investigated," co-founder Roman Fonseca said in a message to The Associated Press on Monday.

Fonseca has maintained that the only crime which can be taken from the leak was the computer hack itself. He has said he suspects the hack originated outside Panama, possibly in Europe, but has not given any details.

The law firm is one of the most important in the world for creating overseas front companies.

Governments across the world have begun investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after the leak of more than 11.5 million documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, from the law firm that span four decades.

The papers have revealed financial arrangements of prominent figures, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan and of China's President Xi Jinping, and the president of Ukraine.