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A trial is underway for the Panama Papers, a case that changed the country’s financial rules

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Eight years after 11 million leaked secret financial documents revealed how some of the world’s richest people hide their wealth, more than two dozen defendants are on trial in Panama for their alleged roles.

The repercussions of the leaks were far-ranging, prompting the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and bringing scrutiny to the then-leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, Chinese politicians and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.

But those on trial now for alleged money laundering are principally the leaders and associates of the now defunct Panamanian boutique law firm that helped set up the shell companies used to obscure those really behind them.

The leaders of that firm, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, are among those on trial.

What is the Panama papers case about?

Panamanian prosecutors allege that Mossack, Fonseca and their associates created a web of offshore companies that used complex transactions to hide money linked to illicit activities in the “car wash” corruption scandal of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

In December 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to a charge related to its use of shell companies to disguise hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes paid in countries around the world to win public contracts. According to Panamanian prosecutors, the Mossack Fonseca firm created 44 shell companies, 31 of which opened accounts in Panama to hide money linked to the Brazilian scandal.

The judge on the case, Baloisa Marquínez, last year decided to also merge the Odebrecht-related charges to prosecutors’ allegations about the firm’s work for German giant Siemens. Prosecutors allege a former executive with the company used entities created by Mossack Fonseca to transfer funds for bribes.

A Siemens spokesperson declined to comment, noting that it is not a party to the Panama case and that it involves former Siemens employees in their private capacity.

Source: AP

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