Mossack Fonseca Founder Calls Panama Papers a Hack and a ‘Witch Hunt’
Ramon Fonseca, one of founders of Mossack Fonseca, said on April 5 that the Panamanian law firm was a victim of a hack from outside the company.
In an interview with Reuters, Fonseca said he has filed a complaint with state prosecutors over the so-called Panama Papers, the largest data leak in history.
Fonseca, 63, defended his law firm in the interview, saying that it had broken no laws and that all its operations were legal. He also said Mossack Fonseca has never destroyed records or assisted anyone in evading taxes or laundering money.
His comments come after 11.5 million documents from the law firm were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other news organizations. The data breach named 12 world leaders and 140 other politicians in connection to offshore companies in 21 tax havens. The names included Vladimir Putin, Argentine president Mauricio Macri, soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and the Prime Minister of Iceland.
Documents included emails, share certificates, and passports.
However, Fonseca told Reuters the records were “taken out of context” and misinterpreted.
“We rule out an inside job. This is not a leak. This is a hack,” said Fonseca in the interview at the company’s headquarters in Panama.
“We have a theory and we are following it,” he continued.
“We have already made the relevant complaints to the Attorney General’s office, and there is a government institution studying the issue,” added Fonseca.
He said the data leak was journalistic activism and sensationalism.
“The only crime that has been proven is the hack,” Fonseca said. “No one is talking about that. That is the story,” Fonseca told Reuters.
Mossack Fonseca had a staff of about 500, 300 of which are based in Panama, he said.
Fonseca said the price to set up a company ranges from $700 to $1,000, with a large part of the fee going to the government.
The law firm has helped create about 250,000 companies over the past four decades.
Fonseca called the Panama Papers a “witch hunt.” He also said in a separate interview that the country’s success in instituting itself as an offshore banking giant has caused jealousy from first-world competitors.
“It’s very unfair what’s happening because there’s not a level playing field,” Fonseca told The Associated Press.
“Without a doubt if this happened to a company in Delaware nothing would happen, but because it’s Panama it’s the front page of the world’s newspapers.”
Meanwhile, the company released a statement on April 4 saying, “Our industry is not particularly well understood by the public, and unfortunately this series of articles will only serve to deepen that confusion. The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything wrong or illegal, and that’s very much in keeping with the global reputation we’ve worked hard to build over the past 40 years of doing business the right way.”
Panamanian leader, Juan Carlos Varela, has vowed to cooperate with any legal investigations in connection to the leaked data. Varela added that he has “zero tolerance” for financial crimes.
However, the president’s close relationship with Fonseca will bring doubts about his pledge of transparency—Fonseca had previously served in Varela’s cabinet as a special adviser. Fonseca resigned in February after authorities in Brazil raided the offices of an affiliate of the law firm during an investigation into bribes paid to politicians by companies linked to state-run oil giant Petrobras. The Panamanian president has also been accused of evading taxes and taking money from an illegal gambling ring in the United States.
Panama’s chief prosecutor’s office said on April 4 that it will look into the leaked data to see if they reveal any wrongdoing.
However, Fonseca stands behind his company.
“This is a tropical storm, like the ones we have here in Panama where once it passes the sun will come out,” Fonseca told Reuters.
“I guarantee you that we will not be found guilty of anything,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.