Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Panama Papers Lead To Indictment Of 4 (3 Professionals & 1 Client)

According to Law360, New York federal prosecutors announced the indictment of a lawyer and three other men on December 4, 2018 on charges of wire fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, tying the case to the 2016 leak of documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca called the Panama Papers.

Law enforcement officials described the charges against attorney Ramses Owens, who remains at large, and investment manager Dirk Brauer, accountant Richard Gaffey and businessman Harald Joachim von der Goltz, all of whom have been arrested, as a warning to would-be tax criminals and those who would help them. The defendants could face decades in prison.

“Law firms, asset managers and accountants play key roles enabling entry into the global financial system,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement.  
“The Charges Announced Today Demonstrate Our Commitment to Prosecute Professionals Who Facilitate Financial Crimes across International Borders and the Tax Cheats Who Utilize Their Services.”
According to the government, Owens and Brauer, who worked for a firm called Mossfon Asset Management SA with close ties to Owens’ law firm, have spent decades helping U.S. citizens avoid their tax obligations. One such client was von der Goltz, although four other unnamed clients are referred to in the indictment. Gaffey allegedly helped von der Goltz and at least one other client of of Mossack Fonseca.

With help from Mossack Fonseca, the government claims, clients like von der Goltz used shell companies in offshore jurisdictions with strict financial secrecy laws that were technically owned by sham foundations to hide untold amounts of money from the IRS. Von der Goltz falsely told prosecutors that his 102-year-old mother, who lives in Guatemala, was the beneficial owner of companies linked to him, the government claims.

The defendants, who range in age from 50 to 81, face a total of 11 counts. Two of the counts are against von der Goltz alone for allegedly providing false statements to the government after an unnamed representative of a U.S. law firm reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice after the Panama Papers disclosure and offered to set the record straight, according to the indictment.
Authorities said the investigation was a joint effort of investigators at the IRS, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“The Unsealing Of This Indictment Sends A Clear Message That IRS-CI Is Actively Engaged In International Tax Enforcement, And More Investigations Are On The Way,”
said Don Fort, who leads the tax agency’s criminal investigations unit. “Cases like this help maintain the public’s confidence in our tax system by letting them know that we investigate and prosecute those who evade their tax obligation.” The case is U.S. v. Owens et al., case number 1:18-cr-00693, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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