4 men indicted in connection to Panama Papers investigation


United States prosecutors have charged four people with ties to the law firm at the centre of the massive leak of offshore financial data known as the "Panama Papers".

The prosecutors said Mossack Fonseca perpetrated a "decades-long criminal scheme", which was first exposed in a series of articles since 2015 by the Guardian and dozens of media partners around the world.

Three of the four people have already been arrested, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Brauer was arrested in Paris last month.

Prosecutors in NY said the four men, including an attorney and an investment manager who worked for the company, have been charged with wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, and other crimes.

Von Der Goltz, a former USA resident, is accused of evading taxes in part by concealing his ownership of certain shell companies and bank accounts from the IRS.

Charged in the indictment were Ramses Owens, 50, a Panamanian attorney who worked for Mossack Fonseca; Dirk Brauer, 54, a German investment manager; Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz, 81, of Germany; and Richard Gaffey, an accountant from Medfield, Massachusetts.

The 4 were affiliated with Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that helped thousands of clients around the world move money offshore to protect it from taxes.

The charges against the four carry varying sentences.

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The information was obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Authorities said Owens remained at large Tuesday; the other defendants have been taken into custody.

Federal prosecutors say the law firm Mossack Fonseca conspired to circumvent US laws to maintain the wealth of its clients and hide tax dollars owed to the IRS.

Gaffey is accused of assisting Von Der Goltz's scheme and advising another American taxpayer, who is identified in Tuesday's filings only as "Client 1". They also allegedly told their American clients how to recover their funds without revealing the existence of the accounts, including by using debit cards and "fictitious sales".

Gaffey and Owens are accused of falsely claiming that Von Der Goltz's elderly mother was the sole beneficiary of the accounts because she lived in Guatemala and therefore was not a US taxpayer.

"As alleged, these defendants went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent U.S. tax laws in order to maintain their wealth and the wealth of their clients", Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a press release.

German authorities said that 170 police officers, prosecutors, and tax inspectors searched six Deutsche Bank offices around Frankfurt and seized files as part of their investigation into two bank employees who allegedly helped create offshore shell companies to help their clients launder money.