US charges four in ‘Panama Papers’ tax evasion scheme

In this file photo taken on March 30, 2017 General view of the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are located, showing the sign identifying the firm was removed, in Panama City on March 30, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2018
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US charges four in ‘Panama Papers’ tax evasion scheme

  • Prosecutors said that Gaffey, a 74-year-old US citizen, helped another unnamed client of the Mossack Fonseca conceal offshore bank accounts from US authorities

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: US prosecutors announced Tuesday that they have charged four people with taking part in a decades-long scheme to evade US taxes that came to light after a massive leak of offshore financial data known as the “Panama Papers.”
Three of the four people have already been arrested, prosecutors said, in the first criminal case brought by US authorities in connection with Mossack Fonseca & Co, the Panamanian law firm at the center of the leak.
Harald Joachim von der Goltz, a client of the firm, was arrested in London on Monday; Dirk Brauer, an employee of an asset management company closely tied to the firm, was arrested in Paris on Nov. 15; and Richard Gaffey, a US-based accountant, was arrested in Massachusetts on Tuesday, according to prosecutors.
The fourth defendant, Ramses Owens, was a lawyer at Mossack Fonseca and remains at large, prosecutors said. The law firm shut down earlier this year.
Bill Lovett, a lawyer for Gaffey, could not immediately be reached for comment. Lawyers for the other three defendants could not immediately be identified.
The most serious charges in the case, which include wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors said that from 2000 to 2017, Owens and Brauer conspired to help clients of Mossack Fonseca conceal assets, investments and income from US tax authorities, using sham foundations and shell companies formed under the law of countries including Panama, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands. Owens, 50, is a citizen of Panama and Brauer, 54, is German citizen, prosecutors said.
One of those clients was von Der Goltz, an 81-year-old German citizen, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said that Owens and Gaffey helped von Der Goltz avoid taxes by creating shell companies and bank accounts that he falsely claimed were solely owned by his elderly mother, a Guatemalan citizen who did not pay US taxes.
Prosecutors also said that Gaffey, a 74-year-old US citizen, helped another unnamed client of the Mossack Fonseca conceal offshore bank accounts from US authorities.
The “Panama Papers,” which consist of millions of documents from Mossack Fonseca, were leaked to the media in April 2016.
A review of the documents also prompted German authorities to raid the offices of Deutsche Bank AG and its board members as part of a money laundering investigation last week.


Macron hikes minimum wage to appease ‘yellow vest’ protesters

Updated 12 min 15 sec ago
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Macron hikes minimum wage to appease ‘yellow vest’ protesters

  • Macron announces €100 per month increase in the minimum wage from next year in a major concession to yellow vest protesters
  • The 40-year-old former investment banker also struck a more humble tone than usual as he sought to address criticism of his style of leadership

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday a €100 ($113) per month increase in the minimum wage from next year in a major concession to “yellow vest” protesters who have roiled the country.
The minimum wage was set at €1,498 per month pre-tax in 2018 and €1,185 after tax.
Macron also rolled back on an unpopular increase in taxes on pensioners which was introduced by his government.
In an address to the nation, the 40-year-old former investment banker also struck a more humble tone than usual as he sought to address criticism of his style of leadership.
“I know that I have hurt some of you with my statements,” he said.
He stressed, however, that the protests by mostly low-income people in small town or rural France were the result of long-term problems.
“Their distress doesn’t date from yesterday. We have ended up getting used to it,” he said.
“These are forty years of malaise that have come to the surface,” he added.