Balaclava-clad armed police in El Salvador stormed the local offices of the firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal, seizing documents and computers.
Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca is at the centre of an international data leak scandal that has embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy, secretive world of offshore companies.
The raid was overseen personally by the country’s Attorney General Douglas Melendez.
He said the government decided to act after noticing the firm had removed its office sign late on Thursday and quoted an employee as saying the firm was moving.
El Salvador’s government seized about 20 computers, some documents and interviewed seven employees, but did not detain anyone.
Balaclava-clad armed police in El Salvador raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca, the firm at the centre of an international data leak scandal
Documents and computers were seized by the police during their raid on the offices yesterday
The raid was overseen personally by the country’s Attorney General Douglas Melendez
Mr Melendez said: ‘At this moment we cannot speak about [any] crimes; all we can do at this moment is our job.’
The Attorney General said the firm’s El Salvador branch was able to provide ‘back office’ functions for their clients around the world. It is not listed on the company’s website.
Local website El Faro said Salvadoreans had used Mossack Fonseca to buy property in the country without declaring the purchases to the Salvadorean authorities.
Governments across the world have started investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after the leak of more than 11.5million documents, dubbed the ‘Panama Papers’.
They show how Mossack Fonseca helped wealthy clients launder money, avoid sanctions and evade tax.
The firm denied it has done anything wrong and said it had never been accused or charged with criminal wrongdoing.
El Salvador police swooped on the offices after noticing the firm had removed its office sign late on Thursday
The police raid came after it was reported Salvadoreans had used Mossack Fonseca to buy property in the country without declaring the purchases to the Salvadorean authorities
A police officer searches through the pokey Mossack Fonseca office in El Salvador – the firm has denied any wrongdoing
The Panama Papers showed the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes
After days of pressure, the Prime Minister acknowledged he had benefited from a controversial fund set up by his late father Ian.
He also accepted some of the $429,000 (£300,000) left to him by his father may also have come from funds lodged offshore.
David Cameron: British PM under fire following tax evasion revealations
In an extraordinary TV interview, Mr Cameron said he and his wife Samantha had jointly held a stake in his father’s investment fund, Blairmore, which was registered in Panama and operated out of the Bahamas. He said they had sold the shares in January 2010 – four months before he became Prime Minister – for $45,000 (£31,500), pocketing a tax-free profit of just over $27,000 (£19,000) on the deal. John Mann, a Labour member of the Commons Treasury committee, branded him a hypocrite and called for him to resign. Elsewhere an investigation has begun in Argentina after it transpired President Mauricio Macri was named in the Panama Papers.
LastSigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s Prime Minister: Resigned last week
Last week Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, became the first major casualty of the leak, following public outrage his family had sheltered money offshore as the country was almost brought to its knees during the 2008 financial crash.