Panamanian police have raided the headquarters of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of a massive data leak known as “Panama Papers”.
Prosecutors said the operation had been carried out at the company’s offices in Panama City “without incident or interference”.
The leaked “Panama Papers” have shown how some wealthy people use offshore companies to evade tax and avoid sanctions.
Mossack Fonseca has denied wrongdoing. The company says it is the victim of a hack and that the information is being misrepresented.
Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela has promised to work with other countries to improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.
Police carried out the raid along with officials from an organized crime unit. Officers set up a perimeter around the headquarters while prosecutors entered the offices to search for documents.
Afterwards, the attorney general’s office said the aim had been “to obtain documentation linked to the information published in news articles that establish the use of the firm in illicit activities”.
The statement added that searches would also take place at Mossack Fonseca’s subsidiaries.
Panama’s government promised an investigation soon after news reports emerged more than a week ago based on more than 11 million documents from the company.
Mossack Fonseca tweeted that it “continues to co-operate with authorities in investigations made at our headquarters”.
Many other countries are probing possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful in the aftermath of the leak.
The company partner Ramon Fonseca says it had been hacked by servers based abroad and has filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office.
Ramon Fonseca served as a minister in Juan Carlos Valera’s government but stepped aside earlier this year after separate allegations linked Mossack Fonseca to the corruption scandal engulfing the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.
Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela has announced his country is creating an international panel to help improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.
The announcement follows the leak of millions of documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, showing it helped some clients evade tax and avoid sanctions.
Several countries are probing possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful in the aftermath of the leak.
In a TV address, President Juan Carlos Varela said Panama would work with other countries over the revelations.
“The Panamanian government, via our foreign ministry, will create an independent commission of domestic and international experts,” he said.
Photo PA News
The panel would examine working practices and propose measures that could be shared to strengthen the transparency of the financial and legal systems.
Correspondents say President Varela is eager to defend his country against a “media attack” by wealthy countries that he says are unfairly stigmatizing him following the leak.
Mossack Fonseca, for its part, says that it has been the victim of a hack.
The company’s partner, Ramon Fonseca, insisted the leak was not an “inside job”.
Mossack Fonseca had been hacked by servers based abroad.
It has now filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office.
Mossack Fonseca has accused media organizations reporting the leak of having “unauthorized access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company” and of presenting this information out of context.
The revelations have already sparked political reaction in several countries where high-profile figures have been implicated.
On April 5, Iceland’s PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson resigned after the documents showed he owned an offshore company with his wife but had not declared it when he entered parliament.
Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson says he sold his shares to his wife and denies any wrongdoing.
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