SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Authorities in El Salvador on Friday raided the local offices of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, seizing documents and equipment, the country’s attorney general’s office said.
The Panama-based law firm is at the center of an international data leak scandal that has embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies.
Attorney General Douglas Melendez, who personally oversaw the raid, said the government decided to sweep the offices after noticing Mossack Fonseca had removed its office sign late on Thursday, which raised suspicions.
An employee later said the company was planning to move, according to the attorney general’s Twitter feed.
The El Salvador office is not listed on Mossack Fonseca’s corporate website, and officials from Mossack Fonseca in Panama were not available to comment late on Friday.
El Salvador’s government seized about 20 computers, some documents and interviewed seven employees, but did not detain anyone, Melendez said at a press conference.
“At this moment we cannot speak about (any) crimes; all we can do at this moment is our job,” he said, adding the government would analyze all the confiscated information and examine its financial, accounting and legal aspects.
He said it appears the law firm’s local affiliate helped process information for clients worldwide.
Governments across the world have begun investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after the leak of more than 11.5 million documents, dubbed the “Panama Papers,” from the law firm that span four decades.
The papers have revealed financial arrangements of prominent figures, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan and of China President Xi Jinping, and the president of Ukraine.
Founding partner Ramon Fonseca told Reuters in Panama this week that his firm, which specializes in setting up offshore companies, had broken no laws and that all its operations were legal. He also said his firm had never destroyed any documents or helped anyone evade taxes or launder money.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria and Jose Cabezas, writing by David Alire Garcia and Anna Yukhananov; editing by Simon Gardner, G Crosse and Bernard Orr