CBR
search

Federal prosecutors to get first conviction in infamous Panama Papers case

  • German national to plead guilty to circumvent US tax laws

Federal prosecutors say a German businessman charged with evading US taxes as part of an investigation sparked by a series of leaked documents known as the Panama Papers will plead guilty.

(Photo: South China Morning Post)

Harald Joachim von der Goltz, a former US resident who was indicted along with three others in 2018 in connection with documents leaked from the now-defunct Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co., initially fought the government’s case, pleading not guilty to charges that include wire and tax fraud and money laundering. He is scheduled to go to trial on March 9.

Prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Justice Department’s main office in Washington this morning disclosed that von der Goltz had requested a hearing at which he intended to plead guilty. It is unclear which of the charges von der Goltz will plead guilty to. A lawyer for von der Goltz, William Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Wall Street Journal.

Prosecutors typically reduce charges against defendants who agree to plead guilty instead of going to trial. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also didn’t respond to a request for comment. The case stems from a trove of leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca published by a consortium of journalists in 2016.

Prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Justice Department’s disclosed that von der Goltz had requested a hearing at which he intended to plead guilty.

The documents revealed the law firm had created hundreds of thousands of shell companies and offshore accounts for its clients, which included prominent businessmen and politicians around the world. Shortly after the leak, the Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into whether individuals at the law firm knowingly helped clients launder money or evade taxes.

Along with von der Goltz, US prosecutors charged Ramses Owens, a Panamanian citizen and a former partner at Mossack Fonseca; Dirk Brauer, a German citizen who worked, as an investment manager at an associated firm and Richard Gaffey, a US citizen and an accountant, who allegedly helped von der Goltz and another US taxpayer evade taxes.

Aside from the United States other countries have opened their own investigations into individuals and companies linked to the Panama Papers. In December, Deutsche Bank AG agreed to pay €15 million ($16.4 million) to resolve a money-laundering and tax-evasion probe by German prosecutors the bank said was related to the leaked documents.