Panama Papers: U.S. Starts Criminal Tax Avoidance Probe

Panama Papers Scandal
View of buildings in the financial center of Panama City, April 4, 2016. The fallout of the data leak from the law firm Mossack Fonesca has now resulted in the U.S. launching an investigation into tax avoidance. RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the tax avoidance claims revealed in the release of the Panama Papers, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

The U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Preet Bharara, has written to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) requesting additional details to aid his investigation, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for Bharara declined to comment.

The ICIJ published the documents that have become known as the Panama Papers on April 3. The 11.5 million confidential documents contain information on about 214,000 offshore companies compiled by Panamanian lawyers Mossack Fonseca that illustrate how individuals and corporations hide assets from public scrutiny and avoid taxes.

The Panama Papers cover a period over almost 40 years, from 1977 until December 2015.

The Justice Department probe comes after President Barack Obama said the Panama Papers reports showed tax avoidance to be a huge problem, and urged action to stop U.S. companies from taking advantage of tax loopholes that allows them to avoid paying sufficient taxes.