Eleven million documents have been leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca, situated in the world’s leading tax haven of Panama. The documents expose an abundance of concealed assets related to associates of some of the world’s most influential political figures, including Vladimir Putin, Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, and David Cameron’s late father, Ian Cameron.

The documents reveal that a significant part of the law firm’s work was to form offshore structures which hid the identity of the ultimate owners. They offered to provide a “nominee” whose name would be listed as the owner of the structure. This allowed the ultimate owner to remain unnamed, and able to hide and control their assets offshore.

Offshore structures in themselves are a perfectly lawful tool used for a variety of commercial reasons. They enable corporates and high net worth individuals to overcome difficult currency restrictions, inheritance and estate planning, and to take advantage of lower tax rates. It is entirely legal for an entity to be a director, shareholder or beneficial owner of an offshore company without having to disclose their name in the paperwork.

The illegality arises when the structures are used to facilitate money laundering, tax evasion, sanctions evasion, and corruption. The offshore structure lends the perpetrator a veil of anonymity allowing them the opportunity to direct and channel the proceeds of crime. The leaked documents have demonstrated how the law firm may have facilitated fraud of this type on an international scale.

The disclosure of these documents could enable those affected to recover losses that they have incurred as a result of the exposure; this will inevitably lead to a series of intense investigations and enquiries.

Mackrell Turner Garrett has extensive experience in fraud asset-tracing, obtaining worldwide freezing orders and ultimately, recovering losses worth millions of pounds for clients worldwide – if any of the above applies to you, please contact our fraud specialist Maya Paunrana for immediate assistance.