Court dismisses Panama Papers law firm founders in Lava Jato case

Ramon Fonseca, founding partner of law firm Mossack Fonseca, gestures during an interview with Reuters at his office in Panama City April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

PANAMA CITY, June 16 (Reuters) - A Panamanian court dealing with Brazil's Lava Jato case has provisionally dismissed money laundering charges against the founders of the defunct law firm linked to the Panama Papers scandal.

Announcing the decision on Thursday, Panama's judicial branch also said charges against almost 40 other people investigated for alleged money laundering related to the case had been provisionally dismissed.

A judicial source said the ruling was subject to appeal by prosecutors, however.

The investigation, which began in 2016, focused on whether the Panamanian law firm, dedicated to the creation of corporations for allegedly moving illegal funds, had taken part in the Brazilian scandal commonly called "Lava Jato".

This was the largest corruption scandal in Brazil's history and led to imprisonment of such prominent figures as former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Judge Baloisa Marquinez said the prosecutor's office "did not demonstrate which accounts were created in Panama, which were opened with the purpose of hiding money of illicit origin, nor the amount of money entered from offshore companies."

The court also lifted all precautionary measures and bonds applied to the defendants, including law firm founders Ramon Fonseca and Jurgen Mossack.

The judicial branch did not respond to a request to outline how the case will be definitively terminated.

The now-defunct law firm, Mossack Fonseca, rose to infamy in 2016 after leaked confidential documents exposed accounts housed in tax havens linked to the likes of former Argentine president Mauricio Macri, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Argentine football star Lionel Messi and actress Emma Watson.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Bradley Perrett

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