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BERLIN: Germany has issued international arrest warrants for the two founders of the firm at the centre of the tax haven scandal exposed by the Panama Papers data leak.
Mossack Fonseca founders Juergen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, suspected of tax evasion and associating with criminals, will be arrested if they enter the European Union.
A spokesman for the Cologne public prosecutor’s office confirmed that two international arrest warrants had been issued in connection with ongoing investigations, but did not identify those involved.
Mossack and Fonesca hold Panamanian passports and are currently in the Caribbean archipelago, which does not have any extradition treaties. However, investigators hope that Mossack, who has family in Germany, may surrender to officials in order to negotiate a reduced sentence and avoid US charges.
The Panama Papers, a massive data leak in April 2016, exposed widespread tax avoidance and evasion using complex structures of offshore shell companies and caused an international outcry.
At least 150 investigations have been opened in 79 countries to examine potential tax evasion or money laundering, according to the American Center for Public Integrity.
The 2016 Panama Papers leak included a collection of 11 million secret financial documents taken from law firm Mossack Fonscesca. The documents showed how some of the world’s richest people hid their money in shell corporations — some of which were used for illegal purposes.
US federal prosecutors have also alleged that law firm Mossack Fonseca conspired to circumvent US law to maintain the wealth of its clients and conceal tax dollars owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
Fonseca maintained the firm had no control over how its clients may have used offshore vehicles created for them. In 2018, Mossack Fonseca said it would close due to “irreparable damage” to its reputation.
The document’s leak had wide-reaching repercussions. Several country leaders stepped down following the revelations and others came under close scrutiny. Panama’s government continues to petition the international community to remove it from several tax haven blacklists.