Spanish version

INTERNATIONAL

U.S. to investigate Mossack Fonseca clients

They will be looking for examples of tax evasion.

According to The Guardian, there were 200 Americans in the data from Mossack Fonseca.

Spanish version

Temas:

The Justice Deartment's Southern District of New York has opened an inquiry into the allegations involving the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Attorney Preet Bharara, on behalf of the Department of Justice, sent an e-mail to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) seeking their assistance.

"The Attorney of the Southern District of New York has opened a criminal investigation into the relevant issues in the investigation," said the US official to the ICIJ. "We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this issue as soon as possible with any employee or representative involved in the investigation." 

Bharara has spearheaded several investigations involving financial crimes. According to The Guardian newspaper, there are some 200 Americans in the data from Mossack Fonseca, which was leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung last year.

The ICIJ has stated repeatedly that it is not an arm of the justice system.

"We are an organization of independent reporters that thrives by and to serve our members, the international community of investigative journalists and our audience," said the organization.

A SECOND FRONT

The matter is also be also being investigated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which has a criminal investigation division in Panama.

In an interview with La Prensa, the division said it has started an investigation into allegations raised in the international media.

"While we can't talk about specific cases, we take any allegations seriously and we will be following up on any leads we get to corroborate allegations," the IRS said. "We can say that, without getting into specifics about any case, that we have to further corroborate the evidence by getting records both from domestic sources and from foreign countries using intergovernmental agreements that we have in place."

It said that newspaper articles are one of the sources they use to open investigations of possible tax evasion.

"The IRS gets information from a variety of sources, and if there is a probability of criminal activity, we will take action to corroborate those allegations," the IRS said. "We always need records to back up allegations, and the challenge is always in getting those records."

It also stressed that they could not specify any individuals who are the target of a probe.

"We are not confirming or denying an investigation is taking place, because premature exposure can hamper an investigation," the IRS said, adding that this could result in witnesses refusing to cooperate, and could also result in the person being investigated being treated unfairly.

"The IRS does not comment on any investigations or the existence thereof; this is done for various reasons. However, allegations of criminal activity are taken seriously," it said.

The division officials said that the agency would also be open to assisting other governments pursue legal cases against individuals who were found to be violating tax laws of other countries.

"We work all the time with foreign countries, which is one of the reasons we have offices in Panama and in other countries. Part of our job is to facilitate the exchange of information with other countries," it said.

IRS officials in the U.S. also confirmed that the matter was being investigated to NBC News.

The IRS also issued a message to anyone with U.S. tax liabilities who was a client of Mossack Fonseca, saying they should take advantage of a program that allows them to pay the back taxes and a fine to avoid criminal prosecution.

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