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Friday
Dec072018

Four charged with helping Mossack Fonseca clients evade U.S. taxes

U.S. prosecutors charged four men with tax evasion and fraud in schemes first revealed by the Panama Papers leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca.

An indictment unsealed this week in the Southern District of New York charged the four with conspiracy to commit tax evasion, wire fraud, and money-laundering conspiracy.

The DOJ said the defendants were part of a "decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca."

In April 2016, 11.5 million documents from Mossack Foneca were leaked to a German newspaper. The documents -- posted online by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists -- revealed details about more than 200,000 anonymous offshore companies used to hold secret bank accounts and other assets.

It's not always illegal to own or control anonymous companies. But the companies are sometimes used to evade taxes, launder money, and hide assets.

Mossack Foneca shut down at the end of March this year. It had operated for nearly 40 years.

At its peak the firm employed about 600 people in its headquarters in Panama and more than a dozen offices around the world.

The four men named Tuesday were Ramses Owens, Dirk Brauer, Richard Gaffey, and Harald Joachim von der Goltz.

Brauer, 54, is a German citizen. He worked for an affiliate of Mossack Fonseca -- Mossfon Asset Management. He was arrested in Paris on November 15.

Von der Goltz, 81, also German, was arrested Monday in London.

Richard Gaffey, 74, an American accountant, was arrested Tuesday in Boston.

Owens, 50, a Panama citizen, worked for Mossack Fonseca as a lawyer. He remains at large, the DOJ said.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the four allegedly "shuffled millions of dollars through offshore accounts and created shell companies to hide fortunes."

Owens and Brauer allegedly "marketed, created, and serviced sham foundations and shell companies" formed by Mossack Fonseca.

Von Der Goltz was allegedly one of Mossack Fonseca’s U.S. taxpayer clients. 

Gaffey, the DOJ said, helped Von Der Goltz evade U.S. income taxes and reporting requirements, and worked with Owens to help another U.S. taxpayer client of Mossack Fonseca defraud the IRS.

The DOJ also charged Gaffey and Von Der Goltz with four counts of willful failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts.

Von Der Goltz faces an additional two counts of making false statements.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.