Law Firm Behind Panama Papers Leak Claims It Was Hacked From Europe

Mossack Fonseca is one of the leaders in setting up offshore bank accounts for the rich and powerful

One of the co-founders of the Panama-based law firm at the heart of the "Panama Papers" uproar says the company has filed a complaint with Panamanian prosecutors alleging the data was stolen by a hacking attack from abroad.

Ramon Fonseca said Tuesday the firm, Mossack Fonseca, has evidence the hacking was done from Europe, but he declined to give any details.

"I can't say more because the case is already under investigation," he told The Associated Press.

Mossack Fonseca is one of the leaders in setting up offshore bank accounts for the rich and powerful. Some 11.5 million of its documents were leaked to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung revealing details of the secretive shell companies and the people using them. A global group of news organizations working with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is now processing the records.

Fonseca said his firm had committed no crimes and "at the end of this dust storm you will see this more clearly." He said the leak was a violation of privacy. 

Meanwhile, the president of Ukraine became the latest prominent politician to deny wrongdoing Wednesday after his name was linked to secretive offshore accounts arranged the Mossack Fonseca.

The revelations have raised suspicion that such offshore entities were set up to avoid taxes, but Petro Poroshenko denied that was the purpose in his case. Rather, he said, it was necessary to create an offshore holding company to put his candy business in a blind trust when he became president of Ukraine in 2014.

Iceland's prime minister became the first casualty of the affair Tuesday, stepping down two days after a video was aired showing him breaking off a television interview over questions about his family's offshore dealings.

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson had faced opposition calls to resign over revelations he had used a shell company to shelter large sums while Iceland's economy was in crisis.

The Panama Papers have implicated a diverse range of figures, including Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and Hong Kong-born action movie star Jackie Chan, who has a least six companies managed through Mossack Fonseca, the ICIJ says.

Bachchan denied any connection to four shipping companies registered in tax havens following reports by The Indian Express newspaper. "It is possible that my name has been misused," Bachhan tweeted late Tuesday.

Soccer star Lionel Messi and his father were owners of a Panama shell company called Mega Star Enterprises Inc. The Barcelona FC player is suing Spanish newspaper El Confidential, which reported Messi used the company to avoid paying taxes. Messi claims the firm was "completely inactive," NBC News reported.

The Panama Papers, which illustrate how a small class of global elites find elaborate ways to shield their wealth from tax collectors, bank regulators and police, add to the populist outrage that has marked this year's presidential campaign.

Voters and experts say the documents validate the frustration felt by Bernie Sanders supporters on the left, who feel hard work is no longer enough to get ahead in America, and the anger of Donald Trump partisans on the right who say it will take someone who knows the insider system to dismantle it.

"We've recently heard the startling revelations about the tax dodge that is taking place in Panama," Sanders told supporters in Wyoming Tuesday night after his win in the Wisconsin Democratic primary. "In a time of massive income and wealth inequality, how does it happen that you have large, profitable multinational corporations who in a given year pay zero, not a penny, in federal income taxes?"

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us