The recent commencement of criminal investigations, against a number of minor employees at the defunct Panama city law firm of Mossack & Fonseca may signal a change in focus, from the name partners to low-level participants in the international money laundering and tax evasion program exposed in the Panama Papers.
The timeline shows that the clock has been ticking on the abysmally slow progress of the case:
(1) Panama Papers released to global media; April 2016.
(2) Mossack & Fonseca partners arrested; February, 2017.
(3) Partners bond out of jail; April, 2017.
(4) Law firm closes down; April, 2018.
Given that sufficient evidence to convict the partners many times over has been in the public domain for more than two years, the fact that investigations are continuing is suspicious at best. Will Jurgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, the founding partners of the law firm, ever go to trial? It is beginning to appear more and more unlikely to experienced Panama watchers, who are familiar with the corrupt status of the country's court system, where illegal gratuities often change hands, and influential lawyers can delay justice indefinitely through bribes and favours.
While the Panama Papers have focused the financial world's attention on the sordid and opaque offshore corporate formation industry, and caused global awareness, the M & F partners may never see the inside of a Panamanian prison.
Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst
Contributed by Kenneth Rijock - Financial Crime Consultant