Americans Convicted of Wire Fraud, Ponzi Schemes Found in Panama Papers

Posted By Okabe & Haushalter || 14-Apr-2016

The fallout from the leaked "Panama Papers" is still being felt all over the world, but as journalists and governments grapple with revelations of tax evasion and "offshore" holdings, many have wondered: where are the Americans in the leak? As several news outlets are beginning to highlight, several Americans have been named in the documents—and some of them have criminal records.

As USA Today reports, the Panama Papers include references to several Americans with prior "white collar" convictions. Among them is a Wall Street financier with a record of wire fraud and money laundering via offshore shell companies. Others include a Russian-born real estate mogul with a tax evasion record and an American with ties to Indonesia oilfield Ponzi scheme who was jailed for 13 years for tax evasion. Perhaps the most "public" of the named Americans (as reported by the New Yorker) is Marianna Olszewski, a financial adviser and author (who has no prior convictions).

What are the "Panama Papers?"

The "Panama Papers" is the shorthand nickname of the massive document leak at Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents were recovered by the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who then shared the documents with hundreds of news outlets, most prominently the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Mossack Fonseca created more than 200,000 offshore companies (or shell companies) for its clients. While the creation or use of these companies is largely legal all over the world, they are often associated with tax evasion and fraud. Among the high-profile names included in the papers are British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Where are the Americans?

Roughly 200 individuals with American addresses have been identified in the massive leak, but it's still unclear if those individuals are actually American citizens. It's also possible that more Americans will be identified in the 11.5 million files that are still being researched by journalists.

Will the leak result in any criminal charges? That remains unclear. While shell companies are legal, it is not yet known what all of Mossack Fonseca's clients were actually using them for—a question that is sure to be of interest to the IRS and other federal authorities. In response to the noticeable lack of Americans in the leak thus far, an editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung tweeted "Just wait for what is coming next."

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