JUDICIAL AFFAIRS

Prosecutors outline case against Mossack Fonseca

The firm allegedly used numerous bank accounts to launder money.

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Kenia Porcell, David Díaz and Rómulo Bethancourt. Kenia Porcell, David Díaz and Rómulo Bethancourt. Expandir Imagen
Kenia Porcell, David Díaz and Rómulo Bethancourt. LA PRENSA/Archivo

After the judicial proceedings carried out by the Public Prosecutor's Office, which ended with the provisional arrest of the partners of Mossack Fonseca (MF), Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, and of lawyer Edison Teano, La Prensa spoke with Attorney General Kenia Porcell, Second Specialized Prosecutor against Organized Crime Rómulo Bethancourt, who is in charge of all cases involving MF, and the undersecretary general of the Attorney General's Office, David Díaz.

Diaz said that the first step in the case had been determining that the firm had been connected to assets in the Panamanian financial system, which in this particular case was done through FPB Bank. This was needed to establish the elements for the crime of money laundering, which is the charge that has been filed against the three lawyers.

The law firm is under investigation in connection with the Lava Jato operation in Brazil, and specifically in helping people linked to the Brazilian construction company OAS to pay bribes using companies created by MF.

As a result of this investigation, Brazilian prosecutors raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca in Brazil in January 2016, which was operated by Maria Mercedes Riaño, a Panamanian national, and a Brazilian partner, Luiz Fernando Hernandes. Intercepted communications found that it was Riaño who exercised control and decision-making in operations in that office, linking it to MF's operations in Panama.

According to the prosecutor, after stories appeared in La Prensa about the raid, prosecutors initiated an investigation in Panama that led to FPB Bank. There were accounts in the bank that prosecutors were able to link to MF officials. Prosecutors allege that the company collected fees linked to the laundering of money in Brazil, and then used accounts to launder those proceeds.

Both Bethancourt and Díaz confirmed that prosecutors were able to obtain documents from the bank that proved this was the case.

Regarding the possibility that companies incorporated by MF are part of the investigation being carried out in Switzerland that are part of the Lava Jato investigation, the prosecutors said that the MP is not carrying out a single investigation and that they have been discovering other elements that will possibly trigger other investigations.

"Even though we have important findings and evidence of criminal acts, there is still a great deal of information that needs to be processed," Bethancourt said.

Consulted about the whereabouts of Riaño, who is already facing an arrest warrant in Brazil, he said that there is a precautionary measure and that information has been sent to authorities requesting she appear.

Prosecutors made six raids Thursday and Friday, all with positive results.

They have seized communication equipment and paper support material, which were found in residential settings even though they were documents that should have been kept in the MF offices.

The defense of Mossack and Fonseca has repeatedly been that it has not operated any differently than other firms.

In this regard, Bethancourt stressed that the incorporation of companies is a lawful activity in Panama, which is why the MP only has pursued criminal activities against MF.

"We do not pursue law firms, nor any other person for the simple exercise of their profession," he said.

The law firm still faces three other investigations, relating to the publications of the ICIJ, its links to a drug trafficker and a corruption case in Ecuador.

The prosecutors said the investigations will take time, and the case presents a particular challenge because it involves a law firm. But, at the same time, the firm is not going to get special treatment, the prosecutors said.

"The knowledge of the profession must lead to a correct behavior. The concept for the human being to do what is right is universal," the said.

Prosecutors worked with their counterparts in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, the United States and Switzerland in developing the case.

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