Business & Economy

A delayed trial and a scandal of global proportions: the Panama Papers

Panama City, Dec 16 (EFE).- The trial in Panama for the so-called Panama Papers, initially scheduled for December of this year, did not take place. Instead, a court has rescheduled it for the first quarter of 2024, marking a further setback for this prolonged process that some have pointed out as part of a “staged” scandal to discredit the central american country.

There have already been several delays in this “Panama Papers” case, in which lawyers Juergen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, founders of the defunct law firm at the center of the scandal known worldwide as the Panama Papers, are being tried for alleged money laundering.

The money-laundering trial began with the worldwide publication of a journalistic investigation that in 2016 leaked details of financial transactions made through thousands of offshore companies created by the firm Mossack Fonseca and linked to individuals in 200 countries and 21 financial jurisdictions, according to a report by the Panamanian Attorney General’s Office.

Thus, corporate and financial schemes were used to “conceal illicit assets and their true beneficiaries, enabling billions of dollars to be laundered,” according to the report.

Lengthy process

In Panama, the investigation of this case lasted until September 2019. During its visit, the Attorney General’s Office asked the court to indict 44 people for money laundering and to dismiss eleven others.

Although the preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin no later than November 2020, it was held a year later and 32 people were indicted for laundering money, including the two founding partners of Mossack Fonseca.

Due to the management of international assistance, the start of the trial, scheduled for December 2021 at the latest, was postponed to the beginning of this month. However, the trial did not take place “due to notifications to be made through international assistance,” according to the Judicial Branch.

Accordingly, the court set a new trial date of Feb. 19 through March 8, 2024, and an alternative trial date of April 8 through 26, 2024.

Papers and lists

The Panama Papers leak involved 2.6 terabytes and over 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, affecting over 140 politicians and high-ranking officials worldwide.

This surpassed the 1.7 million files leaked by technology consultant and former Central Intelligence Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

In the years that followed the scandal, Panama was included in the gray lists of France, the European Union (EU) and also, for the second time, in that of the financial Action Task Force, from which it was excluded last October.

The government of the president of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, who took office for the five-year term 2019-2024, highlighted “the efforts” it has made to comply with international standards in tax matters and asked at the time the EU for “equal treatment” as that given in Panama to European companies.

“Europe, especially France, is trying to use its strength to bend, control and impose its interests on the rest of the world,” Adolfo Linares, a Panamanian lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in commercial, maritime, copyright, corporate and business law, told EFE.

Linares lamented that in recent years “it seems that our political class has simply decided to lower their heads,” a situation that has resulted in the country “modifying laws and regulations for more than 10 years under the pretext of compliance, and every time we do something they raise the bar, and that will continue.” EFE


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