US brings first Panama Papers charges, accusing four of fraud

Federal prosecutors in New York charged an account manager linked to Mossack Fonseca, a lawyer, a client and his accountant of tax fraud, money laundering and other offences.
Federal prosecutors in New York charged an account manager linked to Mossack Fonseca, a lawyer, a client and his accountant of tax fraud, money laundering and other offences.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - US authorities unsealed charges against four people in connection with offshore accounts opened with the help of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co, in the first US criminal prosecution to emerge from the so-called Panama Papers leak.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged an account manager linked to Mossack Fonseca, a lawyer, a client and his accountant of tax fraud, money laundering and other offences, stemming from their use of offshore accounts to shuffle and hide millions of dollars.

Three of the four have been arrested, the US said.

Among those charged was Ramses Owens, a partner at the now-defunct firm who the US said helped create, market and service shell companies for the firm's wealthy clients.

Prosecutors said he was assisted by Dirk Brauer, an investment manager for an affiliated firm who was arrested in Paris on Nov 15. Owens remains at large.

Prosecutors also charged Harald Joachim von der Goltz, a wealthy client of the firm, and his accountant, Richard Gaffey, of money laundering, conspiracy to evade taxes and failure to declare foreign accounts.

Joachim von der Goltz, who is accused of hiding his ownership of shell companies he used to secret away tens of millions of dollars from US tax authorities, was arrested in London on Dec 3. Gaffey was arrested in Massachusetts earlier on Tuesday (Dec 4).

 

Gaffey and Owens are also accused of helping an unnamed US taxpayer defraud the US by maintaining a series of offshore bank accounts to conceal wealth from the Internal Revenue Service.