Friday, October 23, 2020

U.S to convict German businessman in Panama papers scandal


A German businessman charged with evading U.S. taxes as part of an investigation sparked by a trove of leaked documents known as the Panama Papers will plead guilty, federal prosecutors said.

Harald Joachim von der Goltz, a former U.S. 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Justice Department’s main office in Washington on Thursday said Mr. von der Goltz had requested a hearing at which he intended to plead guilty.

It was unclear Friday which of the government’s charges Mr. von der Goltz would plead guilty to. A lawyer for Mr. von der Goltz, William Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Prosecutors typically reduce charges against defendants who agree to plead guilty instead of going to trial.

A spokesman for the U.S. 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. 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.

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Along with Mr. von der Goltz, U.S. 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 U.S. citizen and an accountant who allegedly helped Mr. von der Goltz and another U.S. taxpayer evade taxes.

Mr. Gaffey has pleaded not guilty to the government’s charges and is scheduled for trial in March. His lawyer didn’t return a request for comment.

Mr. Owens remains in Panama, according to his lawyer, Charlie Carrillo. A court in Panama has ordered Mr. Owens to remain in the country pending the resolution of a criminal case there, Mr. Carrillo said.

Prosecutors last year said Mr. Brauer had been extradited to Germany, where he faced criminal charges. A lawyer for Mr. Brauer didn’t return a request for comment.

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.

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