Hearings end in 'Panama Papers' money-laundering trial

AFP , Saturday 20 Apr 2024

Hearings in the money-laundering trial of the heads of the now-defunct law firm Mossack Fonseca, the epicenter of the global "Panama Papers" scandal, concluded on Friday in the Panamanian capital.

Panama Papers
over suspicions of money laundering based on revelations from the 2016 Panama Papers data leak. Photo: AFP


Following 10 days of hearings, a sentence is expected in the coming weeks, with judge Baloisa Marquinez saying Friday she would take advantage of a law giving her 30 working days to render a verdict -- or potentially more in cases of lengthy proceedings.

Prosecutor Isis Soto has requested a sentence of 12 years in prison, the maximum for money laundering, for Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, the founders of the firm whose practices were at the heart of the scandal that erupted in 2016.

Documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca revealed how many of the world's wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies, triggering scores of investigations around the globe.

"There has truly been a great injustice committed, not only against me, but against all the people that have worked with me, of whom there are many," Mossack said at the end of the trial.

"I reiterate that both my partner and all the people who have worked with me have been serious, honest and correct people."

The pair are on trial alongside more than two dozen others, mainly former employees. Fonseca did not attend the hearings for medical reasons.

The prosecution accuses Mossack and Fonseca of "concealing, covering up and providing false information to banks for the opening of accounts and concealing ownership of assets."

The pair are also alleged to have "received and transferred funds from illicit activities in Germany and Argentina."

Guillermina McDonald, a lawyer for Mossack and other defendants, told AFP that the trial had been flawed.

"If there is justice, they should be acquitted," McDonald said, adding "no punishable act had been proven".

The trove of 11.5 million leaked files implicated influential figures including billionaires, politicians and sports stars.

Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign after it was revealed his family had offshore accounts.

Then-Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office for life after being implicated in the documents.

Others implicated included former British premier David Cameron, football star Lionel Messi, Argentina's then-president Mauricio Macri and Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, to name but a few.

Many of those caught up in the scandal put forward reasons to explain their offshore presence and said they did not act illegally.

Even so, Mossack Fonseca said in 2018 that it would close due to "irreparable damage" to its reputation.

The scandal dealt a severe blow to Panama's image as an offshore financial hub.

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