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Panama suspends Panama Papers probe

View of the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are placed in Panama City on April 3, 2016. A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents on Sunday exposed the secret offshore dealings of aides to Russian president Vladimir Putin, world leaders and celebrities including Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures -- including 12 current or former heads of states. AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO GRIMALDO / AFP / EDUARDO GRIMALDO

View of the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are placed in Panama City on April 3, 2016. A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents on Sunday exposed the secret offshore dealings of aides to Russian president Vladimir Putin, world leaders and celebrities including Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures — including 12 current or former heads of states. AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO GRIMALDO / AFP / EDUARDO GRIMALDO

Panama is suspending its probe into the Panama Papers, the leak of a legal firm’s files on clients who stored assets in opaque offshore companies, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The records from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed the names of leaders, politicians, celebrities and wealthy individuals from around the world who used the firm to create offshore entities to hide their assets.

A legal challenge on constitutional grounds required the suspension, the country’s attorney general, Kenia Porcell, told a news conference.

It was now up to the Supreme Court to rule on the matter and decide whether the probe should resume, she said.

The Panama Papers scandal erupted in April last year when media reports divulged documents from the massive data dump leaked by an anonymous source to a German newspaper.

Mossack Fonseca has argued that the revelations were illegal and based on stolen information.

The explosive dossier linked some of the world’s most powerful leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister David Cameron and others to unreported offshore companies.

The revelations led to the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister.

Other prominent people who turned up in the documents include Argentine President Mauricio Macri, footballer Lionel Messi and, most recently, the daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Offshore companies are not in themselves illegal, but the sudden publication of troves of data drew attention to rampant tax avoidance and even money laundering crimes.

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