Panama Papers: Four charged in US with fraud and tax evasion

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Panama Papers

Four men have been charged in the US with fraud and tax evasion in connection with investigations prompted by the leaked Panama Papers.

Justice officials said the four were involved in a "decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca".

Mossack Fonseca was the Panama-based law firm subjected to a massive leak of papers in 2016 that lifted the lid on hidden tax activities of the wealthy.

Three of the four men named on Tuesday are under arrest, one is at large.

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

Mr Brauer, a 54-year-old German citizen who worked for an asset management company linked to Mossack Fonseca, was arrested in Paris on 15 November.

Mr von der Goltz, 81, who is also German and used to live in the US, was arrested in London on Monday.

US-based accountant Richard Gaffey, 74, was detained in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

Mr Owens, a 50-year-old Panamanian citizen, worked for Mossack Fonseca as a lawyer and remains at large.

Media caption,

A huge leak of confidential documents has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth

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

He said the four allegedly "shuffled millions of dollars through offshore accounts and created shell companies to hide fortunes".

Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation chief Don Fort said his team was unravelling intricate schemes that moved money around the globe and that "more investigations are on the way".

Prosecutors allege Mr Owens and Mr Brauer created and ran sham foundations and shell companies to conceal assets.

Mr von der Goltz was at the time a US resident and a client of Mossack Fonseca. He is accused of evading US tax obligations through a scheme of shell companies.

Mr Gaffey is accused of assisting in the scheme and, along with Mr Owens, helping another client, named only as Client 1, to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.

The four face various charges. Wire fraud can carry a jail term of 20 years.

Investigations following the leak of the Panama Papers continue around the globe.

Last week, the Frankfurt headquarters of Deutsche Bank was raided by prosecutors in a money laundering investigation.