Panama Papers: El Salvador raids Mossack Fonseca office

Documents and equipment seized by authorities in investigation of Mossack Fonseca, firm at centre of data leak scandal.

Authorities in El Salvador have raided the local offices of law firm Mossack Fonseca and seized documents and equipment, according to the office of the country’s attorney general.

The Panama-based law firm is at the centre of an international data leak scandal – dubbed the Panama Papers – that has embarrassed several world leaders and highlighted the shadowy world of offshore companies.

Attorney General Douglas Melendez, who personally oversaw Friday’s raid, said that the government decided to sweep the offices after noticing Mossack Fonseca had removed its office sign late on Thursday, which raised suspicions.

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An employee later said the company was planning to move, according to the attorney general’s Twitter feed.

The El Salvador office is not listed on Mossack Fonseca’s corporate website.

El Salvador’s government seized about 20 computers, some documents and interviewed seven employees, but did not detain anyone, Melendez said.

“At this moment we cannot speak about [any] crimes; all we can do at this moment is our job,” he said.

He said that the government would analyse all the confiscated information and examine its financial, accounting and legal aspects.

He said it appears the law firm’s local affiliate helped process information for clients worldwide.

Governments across the world have begun investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after the leak of more than 11.5 million documents from the law firm that span four decades.

“Most of us pay our taxes because it’s the right thing to do and because we don’t have any other choice,” Nick Bryer, Oxfam’s Head of UK Policy, told Al Jazeera.

“When the world’s richest decide to exploit the loopholes and deploy armies of tax lawyers and accountants to avoid paying their share, the rest of us miss out. We miss out on things which are paid for by taxes, for example schools, roads and health services.

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“It’s a much bigger issue in a poorer country where budgets are stretched.”

Ramon Fonseca, the founding partner of Mossack Fonseca, said the leak was the result of hacking from a computer overseas rather than an inside job and that he knew which country the hacker attack had come from but was not allowed to disclose it.

The papers have revealed financial arrangements of prominent figures, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin and relatives of the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan and the presidents of China and Ukraine.

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s prime minister, was forced to quit office, becoming the first politician brought down by the leaks.

A federal prosecutor has  called for an investigation into Argentina President Mauricio Macri’s links with an offshore company that were revealed in the Panama Papers as well.

Protesters in Argentina want Macri to resign after his links to an offshore company were revealed in the data leaks [AP]
Protesters in Argentina want Macri to resign after his links to an offshore company were revealed in the data leaks [AP]
Source: News Agencies