Panama authorities raid HQ of Mossack Fonseca, law firm linked to Panama Papers leak

The Mossack Fonseca sign is pictured in Panama City, on April 4, 2016.
The Mossack Fonseca sign is pictured in Panama City, on April 4, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

PANAMA CITY (AFP/REUTERS) - The police on Tuesday (April 12) raided the headquarters of the Panamanian law firm whose leaked Panama Papers revealed how the world's wealthy and powerful used offshore companies to stash assets.

Police with an organised crime unit carried out the raid at Mossack Fonseca "with no incident or interference", prosecutors said in a statement, adding that searches would take place at the firm's Panama City headquarters and its branches.

The national police, in an earlier statement, said they were searching for documentation that "would establish the possible use of the firm for illicit activities". The firm has been accused of tax evasion and fraud.

Police offers and patrol cars began gathering around the company's building in the afternoon under the command of prosecutor Javier Caravallo, who specialises in organised crime and money laundering.

The law firm's office in El Salvador was raided last week, and the authorities in Peru raided its branch in Lima on Monday.

Earlier, founding partner Ramon Fonseca said the company had broken no laws, destroyed no documents, and all its operations were legal.

The Panama Papers, centred on a huge cache of documents pilfered digitally from Mossack Fonseca, has had repercussions around the world.

Iceland's prime minister was forced to resign after his name appeared as one of the beneficiaries of an offshore company.

Britain's prime minister has had to disclose his tax records.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to divert attention from his entourage by claiming it is all a US plot against him.

China has been censoring online forums and media to try to prevent the names of relatives close to the leadership from circulating.

And wealthy citizens in Australia, France, India, Mexico, Peru, Spain and elsewhere face probes over suspected tax avoidance after their names figured in some of the 11.5 million documents.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's image has taken a beating from the delay in revealing that he held shares in his late father's offshore fund and received money from his parents that may have skirted inheritance tax.