Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the centre of 2016’s Panama Papers scandal, announced that it will close its remaining offices by the end of the month, according to a statement obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Mossack came under fire in April 2016 when the ICIJ and other media partners around the world reported on a collection of 11.5 million leaked documents alleging the firm helped people and business entities launder money, hide assets and evade taxes on a massive scale — often with the assistance of Virgin Islands-registered companies.
The resulting controversy sparked criminal probes around the globe, bought negative political attention to the offshore finance industry, triggered various investigations, and forced the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan to resign.
It also led to direct consequences for Mossack’s VI office: In November 2016, the BVI Financial Services Commission fined the office $440,000 for contravening sections of the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice and the VI Regulatory Code. It was the largest fine ever issued by the FSC, according to Government Information Services.
And in February 2017, Panamanian police arrested the firm’s founders, Ramon Fonseca and Jurgen Mossack, on money laundering charges relating to Brazil’s largest-ever bribery investigation. They were released on bail in April, though a Panamanian prosecutor was also investigating the firm, according to the ICIJ.
The pair have maintained their innocence.
“The reputational deterioration, the media campaign, the financial siege and the irregular actions of some Panamanian authorities have caused irreparable damage, whose obligatory consequence is the total cessation of operations to the public,” Mossack said in the statement obtained by the ICIJ.
The firm reportedly said it would also work with authorities to “demonstrate that no crime has been committed.”
Officials at Mossack’s VI office could not be reached for further comment.
Messrs. Fonseca and Mossack founded the firm in 1986, and it expanded to more than 40 offices and 600 employees across the globe before the ICIJ’s investigation.
By December 2017, the Panama Papers had assisted various governments in regaining a total of $500 million in lost tax revenue, the ICIJ reported.