Justice Dept. indicts four people in probe into Panama Papers leak

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday charged four people, including one U.S. citizen, with an array of financial crimes in connection to the Panama Papers, the 2016 leak of documents involving various powerful people around the globe.

Richard Gaffey, a U.S. citizen; Ramses Owens, 50, of Panama; and Dirk Brauer, 54, and Harald Joachim Von Der Goltz, 81, both German citizens, were charged for their involvement in a scheme to avoid U.S. tax laws, the DOJ said in a press release.

The department said that Owens and Brauer managed offshore accounts to shield the money of clients of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co.

Gaffey, a Massachusetts-based accountant, allegedly perpetuated the scheme, while Van Der Goltz was a client of the firm.

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Gaffey, Brauer and Von Der Goltz were arrested in recent days, while Owens remains at large, the DOJ said. 

Owens and Brauer were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Owens, Gaffey and Von Der Goltz were charged with money laundering, tax evasion and wire fraud.

Their charges stem from a DOJ investigation into the Panama Papers, a 2016 leak of financial documents that made public information about offshore accounts of powerful people across the globe.

An investigation into the documents by more than 100 news organizations found that the files included information about the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials around the world.

The leaked documents come from Mossack Fonseca, which helps individuals and businesses set up anonymous offshore shell companies. While setting up such a company is not in itself a crime, they can be used to avoid taxes.