Judge acquits key figures in Panama Papers scandal

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PANAMA CITY — A Panamanian judge acquitted 39 people in a money laundering case Thursday, including lawyers Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, who were key figures in the Panama Papers case.

Judge Baloisa Marquinez Moran ruled that the prosecution did not prove that the law firm Mossack Fonseca handled illicit funds from Brazil, or try to hide them.

Mossack and Fonseca had faced charges of creating accounts in multiple countries that were used by the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

The two had been accused of money laundering for allegedly setting up offshore accounts for Odebrecht to move bribes.

Fonseca has claimed they were the victims of “scapegoating” to hide who accepted bribes from Odebrecht.

The Panama Papers included a collection of 11 million secret financial documents that illustrated how some of the world’s richest people hide their money.

The records were leaked in 2016, and the repercussions were far-ranging, prompting the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and bringing scrutiny to the leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, Chinese politicians and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. Federal prosecutors allege that Mossack Fonseca conspired with the IRS to hide tax money owed and to continue the wealth of clients. They have alleged the scheme dated to 2000 and involved sham foundations and shell companies in Panama, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

Fonseca has said the firm, which closed in 2018, had no control over how its clients might use offshore vehicles created for them.

Both Mossack and Fonseca have Panamanian citizenship.

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