Feds make first US arrests for tax evasion tied to Panama Papers

Manhattan federal prosecutors have arrested three people in a widespread tax evasion scheme in connection with the Mossack Fonseca & Co. firm — the first US arrests tied to the infamous “Panama Papers.”

Four people were charged for allegedly helping rich and powerful people evade their taxes “in a decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca & Co.,” which came to light in 2015 through a massive leak of financial documents now known as the “Panama Papers.”

Among the charged are Dirk Brauer, who worked as an investment manager for Mossfon Asset Management; Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz, who was one of Mossack Fonseca’s US taxpayer clients; Ramses Owen, a Panamanian attorney who worked for Mossack Fonseca; and Richard Gaffey, a US-based accountant.

All the men have been arrested except for Owen, who remains at large.

“As alleged, these defendants went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent US tax laws in order to maintain their wealth and the wealth of their clients,” Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.

“For decades, the defendants, employees and a client of global law firm Mossack Fonseca, allegedly shuffled millions of dollars through off-shore accounts and created shell companies to hide fortunes. Now, their international tax scheme is over, and these defendants face years in prison for their crimes.”

The Panama Papers include a collection of 11 million secret financial documents that illustrated how some of the world’s richest people hide their money. The records were first leaked to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, a major German newspaper, and were shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which began publishing collaborative reports with news organizations in 2016.

The leak revealed the Mossack firm’s ties to powerful heads of state and celebrities, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, family members and associates of ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hollywood’s Simon Cowell, actress Emma Watson and kung fu star Jackie Chan.

The feds say Owens and Brauer marketed, created and serviced “sham foundations and shell companies” in foreign countries such as Panama, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands, to hide assets from the IRS.

Von Der Goltz, a Boston financier known for investing in young companies, evaded his taxes by setting up a series of shell companies and bank accounts that made investments totaling tens of millions of dollars, the feds said.

He got help from Owens and Gaffey, who falsely claimed that Von Der Goltz’s elderly mother, a Guatemalan citizen who did not pay US taxes, was the real owner of the shell companies and bank accounts, the feds said.

Brauer was arrested in Paris on Nov. 15. Von Der Goltz was arrested in London on Dec. 3 and Gaffey was busted Tuesday in Medfield, Mass.

With Post wires

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