Panama Papers law firm apologizes to Chinese bank over leak

Mon May 9, 2016 9:20am EDT
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By Clare Baldwin and Paul Carsten

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - The law firm at the center of the "Panama Papers" offshore tax haven controversy has written an apology to a Chinese banking client as it seeks to shore up its Asian business following a massive leak of financial data last month, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.

The letter was written by Mossack Fonseca in response to queries from the Chinese bank about compliance with global financial standards. It is not known whether there were similar communications with other financial institutions, but the letter shows at least one bank client in the firm's biggest market was concerned by issues raised in the publicity surrounding the leak.

In the undated letter to the mid-tier Shanghai-based lender, signed by Mossack Fonseca's regional general manager, the shell company specialist said it "deeply regrets" any misuse of its services or the companies it set up.

"If the unauthorized illegal leaks from Mossack Fonseca company servers have created any inconvenience for (the bank) and your clients, we wish to once again apologize," it added.

A Mossack Fonseca spokesperson said reporting of the leak had "deepened confusion" about the nature of its business.

"As such, we are routinely speaking to our clients and other related parties that have questions to explain that ... nothing in the illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we have done anything wrong or illegal," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Leaks from the Panama Papers, named after the law firm's central American home base, have embarrassed some leading politicians around the world with their chronicling of a shadowy world of offshore holdings and hidden wealth.

The source who provided the letter requested that the state-owned bank not be named to protect their identity due to the sensitivity of the subject in China. A former Mossack Fonseca employee in China said the bank was a major client.   Continued...

A company list showing the Mossack Fonseca law firm is pictured on a sign at the Arango Orillac Building in Panama City in this April 3, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/Files