“Panama Papers”: Investigators are looking for another man behind
Status: 11.11.2021 6:12 p.m.
In the scandal surrounding the “Panama Papers” there is another arrest warrant: A Swiss co-owner of the law firm Mossack Fonseca is wanted internationally – among other things for aiding and abetting tax evasion.
The public prosecutor’s office in Cologne is looking for another man behind the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The Swiss was a co-owner of the scandal law firm for several years.
Christoph Zollinger joined the law firm Mossack Fonseca in 1997 and after a few years became a partner alongside Jürgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca. According to information from NDR, WDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung” (SZ), the Cologne Public Prosecutor’s Office, in addition to Mossack and Fonseca, has now also announced Zollinger for an international search. She accuses the trained lawyer of aiding and abetting tax evasion and the formation of a criminal organization.
Prosecutor confirms international arrest warrants
The 52-year-old Zollinger now lives in Switzerland and works in the real estate industry, among other things. When asked, the Cologne public prosecutor merely confirmed that “a total of three international arrest warrants had been issued in this matter”. She did not give any details.
The law firm Mossack Fonseca is at the center of the “Panama Papers”, a huge data leak from the world of mailbox companies. The data set was leaked to the “SZ” and evaluated by 380 journalists from all over the world. The research published in 2016 uncovered the real owners of tens of thousands of letterbox companies.
Criminals among the customers
The “Panama Papers” showed how Mossack Fonseca also accepted criminals as customers, including financial supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, murderers, drug barons and sex offenders. Most of all, the research revealed how thousands of customers around the world used the services of Mossack Fonseca to hide their money from the tax authorities.
The publications led to numerous resignations and legislative changes internationally and triggered thousands of investigations. Since then, courts and tax authorities have collected more than one billion euros in fines and back taxes, including 160 million euros in Germany.
German banks involved
The research done in Germany NDR, WDR and “SZ” were involved, showed that numerous German Panama companies had acquired in order to evade capital gains tax on bank assets. Numerous German banks had provided their German customers with the services of Mossack Fonseca. Several German financial institutions accepted fines worth millions in the course of the investigation.
The “Panama Papers” cover the period 1977 to 2016 and provide information on more than 200,000 letterbox companies. Customers from all over the world were able to set up mailbox companies through Mossack Fonseca and paid around $ 1,000 for them. The firms were usually equipped with mock directors who hid the real owners. This allowed customers to hide money, artwork, yachts, and other assets.
Zollinger rejects allegations
When asked, Zollinger said that he vehemently denied the prosecution’s allegations, and that he was “also not aware that a criminal investigation is about to run against me.” At that time he left the Mossack Fonseca Group because he could not identify with the offshore business. He also stated that his place of residence was known to the German authorities and that he was in contact with the Cologne investigating authorities and was “ready to provide information at any time”.