Venezuela indicts businessman implicated in Panama Papers

A tourist takes a selfie next to a sign that shows the Mossack Fonseca law firm's name outside their office building in Panama City April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan prosecutors have indicted local businessman Josmel Velasquez on charges of money laundering and criminal association as part of an investigation that followed local media reports on the leaked Panama Papers.

Local website reported this month that Velasquez’s brother Adrian, a former aide to late President Hugo Chavez, had opened a shell company in the Republic of the Seychelles with $50,000. The report was based on the documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Prosecutors detained Josmel Velasquez and his mother Amelis Figueroa on Friday at an airport outside Caracas as they were attempting to leave the country, the chief prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Raids on family properties had turned up luxury cars, motorcycles and diamond certificates, the statement said.

Reuters was unable to immediately obtain comment from the Velasquez family.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained 11.5 million confidential documents with information on 214,000 offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca that illustrate how individuals and corporations hide assets from public scrutiny and avoid taxes.

Reporting by Corina Rodriguez, writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Andrew Hay