Panama Papers trial gets underway with 27 suspects charged

Panama Papers trial gets underway with 27 suspects charged
Panama Papers trial gets underway with 27 suspects charged

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Those among the 27 people on trial include founders of the Mossack-Fonseca law firm at the centre of the 'Panama Papers' tax evasion scandal that revealed how some of the world’s wealthy hide their money. — DW pic

PANAMA CITY, April 9 — The trial of 27 people connected with the Panama Papers tax evasion scandal began in a Panamanian criminal court yesterday, some eight years after the revelations first emerged.

Among the defendants are German-born Jürgen Mossack, and Ramon Fonseca, the co-founders of a Panama-based law firm that was at the centre of the document leak in 2016.

Mossack, Fonseca and other former employees of the law firm are facing money laundering charges based on allegations the law firm set up shell companies in tax havens.

Fonseca has previously said the firm, which closed in 2018, had no control over how its clients might use offshore vehicles created for them.

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What was the ‘Panama Papers’ leak?

In 2016, a trove of 11.5 million secret financial documents were leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).

The documents revealed how many of the world’s wealthy stashed their assets into offshore companies.

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The resulting scandal had far-reaching repercussions and resulted in the leaders of countries leaving office following the revelations.

The former Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were forced to step down from their posts.

Others implicated included former British premier David Cameron, football star Lionel Messi, Argentina’s then-president Mauricio Macri and Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, among others.

Many of those caught up in the scandal denied acting illegally and put forward reasons to explain their offshore presence.

German prosecutors issued international arrest warrants for Mossack and Fonseca in 2020 on charges of accessory to tax evasion and forming a criminal organisation.

However, both Mossack and Fonseca have Panamanian citizenship. Panama does not extradite its own citizens so it is unclear whether either will ever be brought to Germany for trial. — DW

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