Accused of leaking 11.5 million documents referred to as the Panama Papers, an IT employee from Mossack Fonseca was recently arrested in Switzerland. Although the Panamanian law firm alleges that his computer was used in the theft, German investigative reporters who received the documents from the whistleblower assert the Swiss police have not actually arrested their source.
In a statement published last month, the Panama Papers whistleblower known as “John Doe” cited income inequality as a prominent motivation for revealing the hundreds of thousands of secret off-shore tax havens used by Mossack Fonseca clients, including celebrities, world leaders, and large corporations. Despite the fact that these offshore companies are legal to operate, John Doe accused the clients of committing tax evasion crimes while alleging that his employer and coworkers have repeatedly broken the law.
“But we must not lose sight of another important fact: the law firm, its founders, and employees actually did knowingly violate myriad laws worldwide, repeatedly,” John Doe wrote. “Publicly they plead ignorance, but the documents show detailed knowledge and deliberate wrongdoing. At the very least we already know that (Jürgen) Mossack personally perjured himself before a federal court in Nevada, and we also know that his information technology staff attempted to cover up the underlying lies. They should all be prosecuted accordingly with no special treatment.”
Although John Doe publicly accused IT employees at Mossack Fonseca of crimes including obstruction of justice, an unidentified IT worker at the firm’s Geneva branch was arrested this week in suspicion of leaking the Panama Papers. Accused of information theft and breach of trust, the arrested IT employee remains in the custody of Swiss police.
“What we know is that data was taken via his computer in Geneva and that this IT worker had full access privileges,” Thierry Ulmann, an attorney for Mossack Fonseca, told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. “It’s on this basis that we have filed a complaint for data theft and breach of the law firm’s trust. Very detailed investigations are being undertaken by Geneva police to analyze the digital traces and shed light on this theft of data.”
But according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the IT employee in police custody is not the whistleblower John Doe who leaked the Panama Papers to them. On Wednesday, Bastian Obermayer, a lead investigator with the German paper, wrote on Twitter, “According to our information the #mossackfonseca IT person arrested in Geneva is not #panamapapers” source ‘John Doe’.”
As police continue to investigate whether the suspect in custody is John Doe, his accomplice, or just a patsy, the Panama Papers have already contributed to the resignations of the prime minister of Iceland and the president of the Chilean chapter of Transparency International. Other prominent figures named in the Panama Papers include the father of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, several friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping, cousins of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the family of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the King of Saudi Arabia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Argentine President Mauricio Macri.
Representing the arrested IT employee, lawyers Thomas Barth and Roman Jordan assert their client’s innocence while refusing to disclose his identity. Following the arrest, they stated their client has “denied all of the accusations against him.”