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Friday
Mar162018

Mossack Fonseca to close doors at end of month

The law firm whose leaked files became known as the Panama Papers said it will shut down at the end of this month.

Mossack Fonseca said in a statement it will close because of "irreparable damage" to its reputation.

The story was first reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists or ICIJ.

It was the ICIJ that also published some of the 11.5 million documents from the firm that were leaked in April 2016. The documents included details about more than 200,000 anonymous offshore companies used to hold secret bank accounts and other assets.

The documents named at least a dozen current world leaders and more than 120 other politicians and officials.

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.

Panama-based Mossack Fonseca operated for nearly 40 years. At its peak it employed about 600 people.

In addition to Panama, the firm had offices and operations in Jersey, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Belize, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, Malta, Hong Kong, Cyprus, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, British Anguilla, Seychelles, and Samoa, among others.

A few months after the documents leaked, the firm closed its offices in Jersey, Isle of Man, and Gibraltar.

The recent statement announcing the permanent shutdown said,

“The reputational deterioration, the media campaign, the financial siege and the irregular actions of some Panamanian authorities have caused irreparable damage, whose obligatory consequence is the total cessation of operations to the public."

Mossack Fonseca has always defended itself and its work. In one statement soon after the leak, it said,

[W]e merely help incorporate companies, and before we agree to work with a client in any way, we conduct a thorough due-diligence process, one that in every case meets and quite often exceeds all relevant local rules, regulations and standards to which we and others are bound.

But in early 2017, Mossack Fonseca's two principal partners were arrested for their alleged connection to Brazil's Car Wash investigation.

Jürgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca Mora were arrested in Panama after investigations by prosecutors from Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Switzerland, and the United States.

After the two partners were released on bail, the firm issued a statement denying any connection to political corruption in Brazil.

In its latest statement about the closure, the firm said it would cooperate with authorities to “demonstrate that no crime has been committed.”

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