The director of a Panamanian law firm that was hacked over the weekend says in a telephone interview that his firm is not responsible for any potential illegalities associated with clients' accounts. Rough Cut - Subtitled (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT -- SUBTITLED (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Tax authorities in Australia and New Zealand are probing local clients of a Panama-based law firm at the centre of a massive data leak for possible tax evasion. Other jurisdictions are likely to follow suit following the leak over the weekend of details of hundreds of thousands of clients in more than 11.5 million documents from the files of law firm Mossack Fonseca, based in the tax haven of Panama. The documents are at the center of an investigation published on Sunday (April 3) by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 other news organizations around the globe. The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said it received the huge cache of documents and shared them with the other media outlets. The leaked "Panama Papers" cover a period over almost 40 years, from 1977 until last December, and allegedly show that some companies domiciled in tax havens were being used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals and tax evasion. Mossack Fonseca director, Ramon Fonseca, said in a phone interview on Sunday that his firm had no responsibility for any potential illegalities associated with the accounts. "We are a company who almost after 40 years has never been formally accused of anything. We are dedicated to doing legal structures which we then sell to intermediaries like banks or lawyers or accountants and they manage it from there and we do not have any control over that. We are not responsible for how they manage those structures however they may want to do them. We have formed more than 240,000 companies throughout our history and the vast majority of these for legitimate purposes. Of course, there are some that end up being used for illegitimate activities but that is not our responsibility because we are not the ones who are managing them, we are not acting on them," he told Reuter. Britain's Guardian newspaper said the documents showed a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion led to close friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reuters could not independently confirm those details. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Monday. Last week, Peskov said reports about the financial dealings of concert cellist Sergei Roldugin, a friend of Putin, and other related reports, were part of a politically motivated campaign to discredit Putin ahead of a cycle of elections. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) said it was investigating more than 800 wealthy clients of Mossack Fonseca.