WASHINGTON: Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm at the center of the “Panama Papers” scandal, has filed a lawsuit against Netflix over its new movie based on the case, accusing the video streaming company of defamation and seeking to stop the film’s release.
The Panama Papers, which consist of millions of documents stolen from Mossack Fonseca and leaked to the media in 2016, provoked a global scandal after showing how rich and powerful clients including Russian President Vladimir Putin and soccer superstar Lionel Messi used offshore corporations to evade taxes.
Netflix’s film “The Laundromat” stars Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas as the two Mossack Fonseca partners at the center of the scandal, Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca. It is scheduled to be released on Friday.
“In its movie … (Netflix) defames and portrays the plaintiffs (Mossack and Fonseca) as ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribes and/or other criminal conduct,” Mossack Fonseca said in the 42-page lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court in Connecticut on Oct. 13.
In documents filed to the court they say the release of the film is likely to subject them to “additional bail and/or conditions for each new crime imputed to them in the movie” in Panama, where they are set to go on trial on charges related to the law firm.
And it would also interfere with their right to a fair trial in the US, where they are under investigation by the FBI, they said in a legal memorandum filed with the district court in Connecticut.
“Once the cat is out of the bag, it is impossible to put it back without the consequence of tainting a verdict,” they say in the documents.
“This is especially true where the cat is named ‘Laundromat’ and the charges would include money laundering.”
In the official trailer for “The Laundromat,” which co-stars Meryl Streep as a widow investigating insurance fraud, the following question is asked and answered in big, bold type: “How do 15 million millionaires in 200 countries stay rich? With lawyers like these.”
The trailer then cuts to the elegantly dressed lawyers played by Oldman and Banderas laughing uproariously.
Mossack and Fonseca complain that the trailer for the film makes them out to be “villains profiting from the death of 20 people killed in the small town boat tour”.
“The implications and innuendo converge to cast plaintiffs in the light of mastermind criminals whose crimes include, but are not limited to, murder, bribery, money laundering and/or corruption,” Mossack and Fonseca say in the court documents.
Mossack Fonseca shut down last year after being accused by U.S. prosecutors of helping clients conceal assets, investments and income from government tax authorities using a wide range of sham foundations and shell companies.
The 11.5m documents in the cache named a large number of rich and powerful people, sparking investigations around the world.
In addition to the Panamanian charges against Mossack and Fonseca, which they are fighting, four men associated with the firm have been charged with tax crimes in the US. – Agencies.