Panama's A-G raids Mossack Fonseca offices

PANAMA CITY • Panama's attorney-general late on Tuesday raided the offices of the Mossack Fonseca law firm to search for any evidence of illegal activities, the authorities said in a statement.

The Panama-based law firm is at the centre of the "Panama Papers" leaks scandal that has embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies.

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 officers 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.

Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

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

Governments across the world have begun investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after the leak of more than 11.5 million documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, from the law firm that span four decades.

The papers have revealed financial arrangements of prominent figures, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan, and of China's President Xi Jinping and the President of Ukraine.

Meanwhile tax officials from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries will discuss ways in which governments can share and analyse data coming out of the Panama Papers cache of leaked documents, Australian officials said yesterday.

Spearheaded by Australian Tax Office (ATO) Commissioner Chris Jordan, the OECD's Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration network brought together senior tax administration officials from 46 countries at a meeting in Paris yesterday.

An ATO spokesman said: "A key outcome of Wednesday's meeting will be to develop a joint and coordinated response, including a commitment to collaborate and share data, analytical methodologies and future joint compliance action."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Panama's A-G raids Mossack Fonseca offices'. Print Edition | Subscribe