Geneva Opens Criminal Probe After Mossack Fonseca Complaint

  • Le Temps reported earlier an employee of firm was arrested
  • Report also said Geneva office of the law firm was searched

Geneva prosecutors opened a criminal probe following a complaint filed by Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal that led to revelations about how the world’s rich hide their money.

The investigation is being led by prosecutor Claudio Mascotto, his spokesman said. An IT technician at the Geneva office of Mossack Fonseca has been arrested by police a few days ago, on suspicion of leaking massive amounts of confidential data, Le Temps reported earlier on Tuesday. Prosecutors also searched the Geneva offices of the firm and took some electronic documents, the newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

A series of reports in April based on millions of documents leaked from the law firm revealed how it worked with some of the world’s biggest banks to create offshore shell companies for world leaders, athletes and other rich clients. The revelations led to the resignation of Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and put British leader David Cameron on the defensive about his family’s finances.

No one answered the phone at Mossack Fonseca’s Geneva office during regular office hours. Bloomberg was asked to send requests for comment by e-mail by a person who answered the phone at its Panama City headquarters.

An anonymous whistle-blower leaked 11.9 million records from the law firm to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung last year. Identified only as “John Doe”, he issued an 1,800-word statement last month, citing “income equality” as the motive behind the leak. The whistle-blower offered to assist authorities in making criminal cases in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

‘Spared the Wealthy’

“Banks, financial regulators and tax authorities have failed,” John Doe wrote in the essay. “Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens.”

Switzerland, known for its strict secrecy laws, has previously targeted figures caught up in whistle-blowing scandals.

Herve Falciani, a former computer worker at HSBC Holdings Plc’s Geneva private bank, was found guilty of corporate espionage in absentia by a Swiss court in 2015. The French citizen was given a five-year prison sentence for trying to sell client data -- even though France, Spain, the U.K. and Italy used the HSBC account data to track down tax dodgers.

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