October 22, 2016

Panama Papers leak was a hack, firm’s founder says

The founder of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm breached in the massive Panama Papers leak, says the company was the victim of a hack by an outside company.

The firm has filed a complaint with state prosecutors, founding partner Ramon Fonseca told Reuters.

“We rule out an inside job. This is not a leak. This is a hack,” Fonseca told the publication. “We have a theory and we are following it,” he added, without providing details.

The mountains of documents exfiltrated and leaked to journalists — 2.6 terabytes, which includes 4.8 million emails, 3 million database files and 2.1 million PDFs — easily constitute the largest cache ever leaked and have come with swift repercussions.

The prominent Panamanian firm specializes in helping overseas clients set up international shell companies to protect their financial assets. Shell companies are commonly used for perfectly legitimate purposes, but the leak revealed some allegedly corrupt conduct that has sparked governmental investigations around the world.

Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned on Tuesday amid questions about his overseas holdings. The documents also reveal a $2-billion trail of secret offshore deals that points to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The company itself has also come under fire in the fallout from the leak.

Reporting based on the documents has suggested that the firm helped form companies used to launder money and worked with clients who were subject to international sanctions.

Fonseca insisted that all of the company’s operations were legal and that internal company emails published through the leak were “taken out of context” and misinterpreted.

He said that the firm has never helped clients evade taxes or launder money, nor has it destroyed any documents.

Calling the reporting on the firm a “witch-hunt,” he expressed fears that a rival would use the scandal to muscle in on the company’s business.

“The only crime that has been proven is the hack,” Fonseca said. “No one is talking about that. That is the story.”

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