NEW YORK, United States, Friday December 7, 2018 – Four people have been charged in an indictment unsealed this week in the United States, with wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering and other offences in connection with the so-called Panama Papers scandal.
And two of them – Ramses Owens and Dirk Brauer –, according to the US Justice Department, used the British Virgin Islands in their scheme.
Owens, 50, a Panamanian citizen; Brauer, 54, a German citizen; Richard Gaffey, 74, an American; and Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz, an 81-year-old German, have all been charged for their alleged roles in the decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca & Co., a Panamanian-based global law firm, and related entities.
According to the indictment, from at least in or about 2000 through in or about 2017, Owens and Brauer conspired with others to help US taxpayer clients of Mossack Fonseca conceal assets and investments, and the income generated by those assets and investments, from the IRS through fraudulent, deceitful, and dishonest means. To conceal their clients’ assets and income from the IRS, They allegedly worked to establish and manage opaque offshore trusts and undeclared bank accounts on behalf of US taxpayers who were clients of Mossack Fonseca.
It is alleged that Owens and Brauer marketed, created, and serviced sham foundations and shell companies formed under the laws of countries such as Panama, Hong Kong, and the British Virgin Islands, to conceal from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and others the ownership by US taxpayers of accounts established at overseas banks, as well as the income generated in those accounts.
As structured by Mossack Fonseca, the sham foundations typically “owned” the shell companies that nominally held the undeclared assets on behalf of the US taxpayer clients of Mossack Fonseca. The names of Mossack Fonseca’s clients generally did not appear anywhere on the incorporation paperwork for the sham foundations or related shell companies, although the clients in fact beneficially owned, and had complete access to, the assets of those sham entities and accounts.
In furtherance of the scheme, and in exchange for additional fees, Owens and Brauer allegedly provided support to clients who had purchased the sham foundations and related shell companies by providing corporate meeting minutes, resolutions, mail forwarding, and signature services. Moreover, they are alleged to have purposefully established the bank accounts in locations with strict bank secrecy laws, which impeded the ability of the United States to obtain bank records for the accounts.
Owens and Brauer also allegedly instructed US taxpayer clients of Mossack Fonseca about how to repatriate funds to the United States from their offshore bank accounts in a manner designed to keep the undeclared bank accounts concealed. Among other things, they instructed clients to use debit cards and fictitious sales to repatriate their funds covertly, the indictment alleges.