PANAMA CITY – The two main partners of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the center of the so-called “Panama papers” scandal, were arrested on Thursday, hours after the Panamanian authorities accused them of being involved in the “Lava Jato” corruption case in Brazil.
Ramon Fonseca Mora, a former minister and adviser to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, and Jürgen Mossack, were transferred from the headquarters of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to police custody in the Panamanian capital on Thursday so the investigation could continue on Friday, defense lawyer Elias Solano said.
Hours earlier, the two had been called to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to be questioned over links between their law firm and offenses related to the “Lava Jato” case.
Solano told reporters outside the Department of Judicial Investigation that his clients will spend the night there but that no precautionary measures have been applied on them as the legal procedure is still ongoing.
The firm, which specializes in setting up offshore companies, acted as a criminal organization dedicated to hiding assets and money of dubious origins within the “Lava Jato” case, according to an investigation, Attorney General Kenia Porcell said.
According to Porcell, the law firm instructed its “person in charge” in Brazil to “hide documents and eliminate evidence” and to facilitate the transfer of the bribe money to Panama “washed or laundered.”
Porcell added the charges against the two are the result of a year-long investigation conducted in collaboration with prosecutors in other countries, including Brazil, Switzerland and the United States.
The offices of the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which also faces another investigation related to the so-called Panama Papers, were raided on Thursday shortly before its two main partners appeared at the Prosecutor’s Office.
Before entering the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Fonseca Mora accused Varela of having received “donations” during the 2014 election campaign from the Brazilian multinational Odebrecht, a company involved in a mega-scandal of bribes in different countries in Latin America.
Fonseca Mora also accused the Prosecutor’s Office of being arbitrary and of using him as a “scapegoat” to delay the probe.
The Lava Jato investigation has been looking into a massive scandal involving Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras and dozens of businessmen and politicians.