OFFSHORE SECRECY

Panama Papers law firm Mossack Fonseca closes its doors

The offshore law firm at the center of ICIJ’s Panama Papers investigation will shutter all its offices by the end of the month.

Mossack Fonseca's Panama headquarters

Mossack Fonseca, the offshore law firm whose 11.5 million leaked files were at the heart of the Panama Papers investigation, will close.

The law firm will shutter its remaining offices by the end of the month, according to a statement obtained by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

“The reputational deterioration, the media campaign, the financial siege and the irregular actions of some Panamanian authorities have caused irreparable damage, whose obligatory consequence is the total cessation of operations to the public,” according to the law firm’s statement.

The firm said it would “continue to call for justice” and would cooperate with authorities to “demonstrate that no crime has been committed.”

In a statement sent to clients in November 2017, which seems to have foreshadowed the firm’s shutdown, Mossack Fonseca said it had to “significantly reduce” its staff due to changes to the laws and an “adverse business environment.”

The law firm’s demise comes almost two years after the Panama Papers investigation revealed the offshore ties of some of the world’s most powerful and most corrupt people. The firm’s leaked internal files contained information on more than 214,000 offshore entities tied to 12 current or former heads of state, 140 politicians and others. The investigation also brought down the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan.

More than 400 journalists from 80 countries have published hundreds of stories since the first wave of revelations on April 3, 2016.

That month, police and investigators raided Mossack Fonseca offices in Panama and El Salvador. Authorities in Venezuela arrested a local employee. By the end of 2016, at least nine Mossack Fonseca offices, including one in the United States, had closed.

“For 40 years Mossack Fonseca has operated beyond reproach in our home country and other jurisdictions where we have operations,” a statement by the firm said at the time. “Our firm has never been accused or charged in connection with criminal wrongdoing.”

That changed in February 2017, when police in Panama arrested Mossack Fonseca’s founders, Ramon Fonseca and Jurgen Mossack, on money laundering charges as part of investigations into Brazil’s largest-ever bribery scandal. The pair were released that April. Separately, prosecutors in Panama launched an investigation into the law firm and the Panama Papers.

Founded in 1986, the Panama law firm grew into an offshore empire with more than 40 offices around the world, from the British Virgin Islands to New Zealand. In 2013, it employed more than 600 people and its billings exceeded $42 million.

Governments in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas have recovered more than $500 million as a result of the disclosures.

Contributors to this story: Sol Lauría

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