Mossack Fonseca partners held in graft probe

Updated 11 Feb 2017

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PANAMA CITY: The founders of the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal were being held on Friday as part of an investigation into a sprawling graft case involving Brazilian construction group Odebrecht.

Ramon Fonseca Mora and Juergen Mossack, named partners of the Mossack Fonseca firm, were put in preventive detention late on Thursday by the Panamanian authorities, one of their attorneys said. Chief prosecutor Kenia Procell said the law firm was suspected of money-laundering and forming “a criminal organisation that sought to hide assets and money of doubtful origin”.

She alleged that the firm also “got rid of evidence” implicating people in Brazil’s “car wash” corruption scandal, in which the Brazilian national oil company Petrobras allegedly gave Odebrecht and other contractors inflated contracts in return for bribes.

Mossack Fonseca’s attorney, Elias Solano, said there was a “lack of evidence” supporting the allegations. On Thursday, as he turned up at the prosecutors’ office to answer questions, Fonseca told reporters that Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela — a former friend — had confided in him that he had accepted “donations” from Odebrecht.

Varela denied the accusation, saying “there were no donations from the Odebrecht company” to his 2014 electoral campaign. Fonseca used to be a high-ranking adviser to Varela but was dismissed when the Panama Papers scandal surfaced in April last year.

The vast data leak from the Mossack Fonseca law firm detailed how the world’s wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2017