This story is over 5 years old.


Computer Tech Detained on Suspicion of Stealing Data from Panama Papers Firm

It's not clear yet if the Mossack Fonseca employee arrested is the "John Doe" responsible for the largest leak of confidential files in history.

Swiss authorities have detained a computer technician who was working in Mossack Fonseca's office in Geneva, after he or she was suspected of "recently removing large amounts of data."

Mossack Fonseca, the legal firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal, had lodged a complaint against this particular employee – perhaps on suspicion they had something to do with the 11.5 million confidential documents leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.


Sources told Swiss newspaper Le Temps that authorities searched the firm's Geneva office and seized computer equipment, and are now in the process of figuring out whether the technician stole information from Mossack Fonseca – and if so, what kind, how much, and over what period.

The suspect is accused of stealing data, unauthorized access of a computer system, and breach of trust. Le Temps reported that the suspect denies any wrongdoing. As to whether he might be the person behind the Panama Papers leak, a Mossack Fonseca Geneva-based attorney, Thierry Ulmann, said that "all hypotheses are open."

Related: You Can Now Search the Panama Papers to See Who Is Stashing Cash Offshore

The leak exposed the murky world of offshore shell companies and elaborate tax evasion schemes, many of which were set up with the Panama-based firm by the world's rich and powerful as a means of hiding their wealth. A coordinated effort by media outlets around the world sifted through the mammoth trove of documents and connected the dots. Journalists ultimately linked offshore accounts in far-flung tax havens to 72 former and current heads of of government, prompting some calls for their resignations (successfully so, in Iceland's case).

They also found that, over their 30 years in business, Mossack Fonseca has attracted an array of colorful clients, such as Ponzi schemers, diamond traders, confectionery oligarchs, international arms smugglers, Saudi royals, members of disgraced football association FIFA, art dealers, drug kingpins, and so on.

The leak also amplified awareness about income inequality and intensified the public demand for governments to crack down on loopholes which make such tax evasion schemes possible.

Related: The Biggest Companies in America Are Being Handed $27 for Every $1 They Pay in Taxes

Whoever was behind the leak has, so far, gone unnamed. In a manifesto published last month, titled "The Revolution Will Be Digitized," the anonymous source responsible for the leak said they would only cooperate with law enforcement on the condition that governments "codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law."

"Income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time," the leaker wrote, using the pseudonym John Doe, and said that politicians, activists and academics have been struggling to understand what was driving the "sudden acceleration" of inequality.