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Data hack Geneva probe opened after Mossack Fonseca complaint

Mossack Fonseca says it has filed complaints in several places against people who might have been involved in hacking its data

(Keystone)

The Geneva public prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation after a complaint by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. A Swiss newspaper has reported that a computer specialist from the firm was taken into custody by Geneva authorities on suspicion of recently removing large amounts of data on offshore companies. 

The media spokesperson for the Geneva justice authorities, Henri Della Casa, confirmed on Wednesday that the public prosecutor's office had opened an investigation following a criminal complaint by the law firm, Mossack Fonseca. But the public prosecutor gave no further details about the complaint or legal proceedings. 

Earlier in the day, the French-language Le Temps newspaper reported, citing a source close to the dossier, that Geneva prosecutors had detained the computer technician for the firm's local office earlier this week in connection with the recent release of "a very large volume of confidential data." 

Panama-based Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, said a statement that it had filed complaints in several places against people who might have been involved with breaching its data. 

"We are confident that the authorities in each of these countries will carry out the corresponding processes transparently and effectively in every case," it said. 

The newspaper said the charges against the computer technician included unauthorised data procurement and a breach of trust.

Le Temps said there was no evidence the detained man was responsible for the massive Panama Papers data leak in April, which embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies. 

That data leak at the beginning of April from the law office in Panama was on a massive scale – 2.6 terabytes. It led to the publication of information by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists about offshore companies and though not in itself illegal, but questionable banking activity around the world. The Geneva prosecutor’s office also began a criminal inquiry in early April into the affair. 

The files were mainly PDFs of contracts and emails detailing the offshore holdings of politicians and public figures from around the world. 

The leak revealed that of the ten financial institutions requesting the most offshore companies for clients, four are Swiss.

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The Panama Papers showed that Switzerland was among the top five countries using financial middlemen to set up offshore companies.

Here you can see the locations of the intermediaries worldwide that are linked to the Panama Papers.

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