4 Men Face First U.S. Criminal Charges Linked To Panama Papers

The men were allegedly involved in the “decadeslong criminal scheme” carried out by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Four men have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and more in the first U.S. indictment stemming from the investigation surrounding the 2016 “Panama Papers” leak.

Prosecutors in Manhattan on Tuesday unsealed an indictment that charged the men with 11 counts for their alleged involvement in the “decadeslong criminal scheme” carried out by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. 

The investigation comes from more than 11.5 million leaked documents on the law firm that helped some of the world’s wealthiest people conceal their riches. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung teamed up with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 media partners to expose the tax evasion and offshore companies used to conceal wealth.

The four men charged are Ramses Owens, 50; Dirk Brauer, 54, a German citizen who worked for an asset management company linked to Mossack Fonseca; German citizen and former U.S. taxpayer Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz, 81; and Richard Gaffey, 74, a U.S.-based accountant.

Three of the men have been arrested while Owens, a Panamanian attorney who worked for Mossack Fonseca, remains at large. 

An attorney for Von Der Goltz told The Associated Press that the indictment is “a desperate attempt to salvage an American case out of the Panama Papers” and said his client will be vindicated at trial. Messages to an attorney for Gaffey weren’t immediately returned and it was unclear whether the other two men had attorneys, the AP reported.

“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. 

The charges against the four carry varying sentences. Wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy can each carry a term of 20 years in prison.

The fallout from the Panama Papers leak was felt around the world. The investigation showed the offshore holdings and financial dealings of world leaders, celebrities and prominent figures. 

Last week, prosecutors raided the German offices of Deutsche Bank on suspicion that employees helped clients launder money through offshore companies in tax havens. The investigation was based on an analysis of documents that included the Panama Papers.