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Ramon Fonseca, partner in firm at centre of Panama Papers scandal, dies

Ramon Fonseca, partner in firm at centre of Panama Papers scandal, dies
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Panamanian lawyer Ramon Fonseca, one of the heads of the now-defunct law firm Mossack Fonseca that was at the epicentre of the global “Panama Papers” scandal, died while awaiting sentencing in his money-laundering trial, his lawyer said Thursday.

During the night, Fonseca “died while hospitalised”, a member of his legal team said, adding that the health concerns were “why he did not attend the trial” that opened on April 8.

No further details were given about the cause of death of Fonseca, 71, who died in hospital in Panama City.

Documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca revealed how many of the world’s wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies, triggering scores of investigations around the globe.

A marquee of the Arango Orillac Building lists the Mossack-Fonseca law firm, in Panama City. Photo: AP

The leak of 11 million financial documents prompted the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and brought scrutiny to the then-leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, Chinese politicians, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.

Panamanian prosecutors allege that Mossack, Fonseca and their associates created a web of shell companies that used complex transactions to hide money linked to illicit activities in the “car wash” corruption scandal of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Fonseca and others were charged with money laundering, which they denied.

Fonseca had said the firm, which closed in 2018, had no control over how its clients might use offshore vehicles created for them.

Mossack Fonseca helped create and sell around 240,000 shell companies across four decades in business. It announced its closure in March 2018, two years after the scandal erupted.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 12 years in prison for the firm’s two founders, Fonseca and his colleague Jurgen Mossack, whose money-laundering hearing ended on April 19.

The pair were on trial alongside more than two dozen others, mainly former employees. Fonseca did not attend the hearings.

Jurgen Mossack, co-founder of former law firm Mossack Fonseca, arrives at the Panamanian Supreme Court of Justice for the tax evasion trial known as ‘Panama Papers’, in Panama City, Panama on April 8. Photo: Reuters

The prosecution accused Mossack and Fonseca of “concealing, covering up and providing false information to banks for the opening of accounts and concealing ownership of assets”.

The pair was also alleged to have “received and transferred funds from illicit activities in Germany and Argentina”.

Many of those caught up in the scandal put forward reasons to explain their offshore presence and said they did not act illegally.

Even so, Mossack Fonseca said in 2018 that it would close due to “irreparable damage” to its reputation.

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