An ex-NFL player with a history of making borrowed money disappear. An American fraudster reportedly caught abroad with 547 diamonds and nine fake passports. An aspiring arms dealer who once negotiated with the genocidal Sudanese regime.
These are some of the Panama Papers-connected crooks that the public is learning about this afternoon.
As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists launched its searchable database of more than 200,000 anonymous shell companies and their beneficial owners today, it also published a series of stories focusing on previously unrevealed U.S. and international wrongdoers linked to some of those shadowy companies.
All those companies, along with the secret details of who they really benefited, were maintained by Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm specializing in offshore corporations whose 11.5 million leaked internal documents were the basis of the Panama Papers investigation. Fusion is one of two English-language U.S. media partners to participate in that investigation.
The ICIJ names names in two new articles, one focusing on American wrongdoers in the Mossack Fonseca documents and another that highlights notorious international malefactors. Below, Fusion has compiled some notable individuals from both of those stories.
In some of the individuals’ cases, it’s not fully clear how Mossack Fonseca responded to discoveries of its clients’ alleged illicit activities — or whether the firm was aware at all of their customers’ misconduct. Representatives of the law firm declined to comment on any of the companies or individuals named by the ICIJ today. But one spokesman said that in cases when companies formed by Mossack Fonseca ended up in the hands of criminals, the firm has “strongly condemned that situation” and taken actions to deal with the problem.
The firm has previously told ICIJ and other media partners that it “does not foster or promote unlawful acts.”
A former Atlanta Falcons football player turned Oregon businessman, Gotshalk had a history of legal issues when he went looking to buy an offshore company in 2010. In 2004, an Oregon state court convicted Gotshalk of felony theft and ordered him to pay restitution and serve 20 days in jail in a case involving allegations he took our large loans with no intention of paying them back.
Panama Papers connection: At first, Mossack Fonseca told Gotshalk it couldn’t do business with him, because of “negative information” that its compliance unit had found. But Gotshalk persuaded the firm to reconsider. Internal records show the firm recorded a $3,055 wire transfer from Gotshalk on May 24, 2010, which paid for a British Virgin Islands company called Irishmyst Consultants Limited. The transfer was recorded just three days after federal prosecutors in Philadelphia unsealed an indictment charging that Gotshalk was a key player in a scheme that used kickbacks and other tactics to inflate the prices of tech company stocks.
A sentencing hearing for Gotshalk in that case has been scheduled for May 19. Gotshalk could not be reached for comment, and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
After American fraudster Martin Frankel fled the U.S. in 1999, authorities said he left behind a to-do list that included the task “launder money.” Law enforcement eventually caught up with Frankel in Hamburg, Germany, where he was allegedly discovered with 547 diamonds and nine fake passports. In 2002, Frankel, who was accused of embezzling more than $200 million from insurance companies in five states, pled guilty to various counts of wire fraud, as well as securities fraud and racketeering conspiracy. Frankel could not be reached for comment.
Panama Papers connection: Frankel was a long-time customer at Mossack Fonseca, and in early 2000, U.S. authorities sought information from the law firm’s office in the British Virgin Islands about two of Frankel’s offshore companies. Mossack Fonseca took several months to respond to the official request for documents in 2000. During the interim, it worked to shut down companies linked to Frankel and disengage from its association with him.
In a 2004 interview, John Knight had admitted to negotiating with Sudan to supply it with weapons — while it was engaged in genocide. Then, in 2007, British authorities raided Knight’s house outside London, where they found a cache of shredded documents. Those papers provided evidence of a scheme to buy automatic weapons from Iran and sell them to Kuwait. Knight was sentenced to four years in prison. He could not be reached for this story.
Panama Papers connection: Using an intermediary in Cyprus, Knight purchased Endeavor Resources Limited – a shell company in the British Virgin Islands – from Mossack Fonseca in 2005. Mossack Fonseca resigned as registered agent for Endeavour Resources.
In 2005 a federal judge ruled that Florida-based Mary Patten played a “crucial role” in an investment scam and ordered her and another defendant to pay more than $5 million in restitution, fines, and interest.
Panama Papers connection: When U.S. securities regulators filed suit against Patten in 2003, they accused her of helping perpetrate a $6-million investment fraud using a company associated with Mossack Fonseca on the island of Jersey. After those allegations came to light, Michael B. Edge, the intermediary who brought Patten to Mossack Fonseca as a customer, told the firm he had been “duped into believing” that Patten needed help because she was the victim of a “malicious lawsuit.” Patten could not be reached for comment, and Edge did not reply to to multiple emails and faxes seeking comment.
‘BOSS OF BOSSES’
Dubbed “the worst gangster most people have never heard of” by Business Insider, Ukranian Semion Mogilevich earned a place on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted fugitives list in 2009, described as a “global con artist and ruthless criminal” who was “involved in weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale.” U.S. authorities secured an indictment against Mogilevich in 2003 that charged him with being behind an alleged fraud that bilked investors out of $150 million at YBM Magnex International, a publicly traded Pennsylvania-based company. In 2015, the agency took him off its “Ten Most Wanted” list, noting that “the extensive national and international publicity afforded him has not generated information which would assist in his apprehension.” Mogilevich could not be reached for comment for this story.
Panama Papers connection: Mogilevich does not appear to have companies in his name registered by Mossack Fonseca, but he had several close connections to companies that the firm set up. For example, Mogilevich’s attorney, Adrian Churchward, served as a director of a company called Trinity Films Inc, which Mossack Fonseca registered in the Bahamas in March 1996. In 2001, the Bahamas attorney general’s office requested information from Mossack Fonseca about another company the firm registered called Rosebud Consultants Inc. US authorities had alleged that Churchward was “associated” with Rosebud and that the company was funneling money to Mogilevich.
Mossack Fonseca said that it forwarded all corporate documents on Rosebud Consultants to the Bahamian attorney general’s office. While it’s unclear whether the firm took any additional action, the firm’s files show that Rosebud was struck off in December 2003 (nearly two years after the attorney general’s letter) and inactivated in September 2006.
Asked for comment on his connection to companies at Mossack Fonseca, Churchward said in an email: “My lawyers have advised me that if Mr Moguilevitch [sic] goes to trial I may be called by either the prosecution or defence to give testimony as a witness and, as such, I should not comment on any aspects of any alleged relationship with Mr Moguilevitch, business or otherwise.”
‘QUEEN OF THE SOUTH’
In Guatemala, the press dubbed her “Queen of the South.” In the U.S., in 2012, authorities identified her as “one of the most prolific narcotics traffickers in Central America.” Last year, Marllory Dadiana Chacón Rossell cut a deal with the U.S. Justice Department and received a reduced sentence for drug trafficking in exchange for cooperating with American authorities – though the full details of her punishment are under wraps, and her case ordered sealed for five years. Chacón Rossell’s attorney said her client declined comment.
Panama Papers connection: One thing we do now know is that Mossack Fonseca played a role in Chacón Rossell’s empire. In 2008, the firm helped to establish a company that listed Chacón Rossell as director and president. Internal records also show that Mossack Fonseca helped the company create bank accounts, and that, by October 2009, one of those accounts held $12 million.
The architect of an alleged Ponzi scheme, Seattle businessman Robert Miracle told investors he’d worked at NASA and Disney, and that his companies were producing oil and gas in Indonesia. In 2008, Miracle was indicted on fraud charges by a federal grand jury. In 2009 he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and mail fraud in the case, ultimately receiving a 13-year prison sentence. Court filings indicated that investors’ losses were likely to top $20 million. Miracle declined to comment.
Panama Papers connection: Internal records show that Mossack Fonseca registered MCube Petroleum Ltd. for Miracle in March 2007—three months after the State of Washington accused him and a similarly named company registered in Washington state, MCube Petroleum Inc., of violating securities laws. MCube Petroleum Inc. and associated companies were part of an enterprise that defrauded hundreds of American investors, federal authorities found. The Panama Papers show that Mossack Fonseca didn’t learn about Robert Miracle’s crimes until 2012, when a database search turned up a record of his conviction. Mossack Fonseca held an internal meeting in 2012 to figure out what to do after learning about the case. Mcube Petroleum Ltd. was in receivership by that time, and so the firm decided to deal with the lawyer appointed as receiver.
In 2005, a Peruvian named Ment Floor Dijkhuizen Cáceres – aka “The Dutchman” – was the target of a drug bust in Rotterdam, where Dutch authorities discovered more than 1.5 tons of cocaine smuggled in a shipment of asparagus. Authorities said that Dijkhuizen Cáceres and his attorney used offshore companies to launder proceeds from the drug trafficking. He is now serving a 25-year sentence in Lima, according to ICIJ reporting partner OjoPúblico. (Dijkhuizen Cáceres could not be reached for comment for this story.)
Panama Papers connection: Dijkhuizen Cáceres and his lawyer set up at least four front companies through Mossack Fonseca. After the drug bust, firm co-founder Jurgen Mossack expressed surprise to learn that Dijkhuizen Cáceres was a customer, according to internal files. “I’m wondering what kind of due diligence is made in Peru on customers?” Mossack wrote. The firm resigned from Dijkhuizen Cáceres’ companies.