Skip to main content
Press Release

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Guilty Plea Of U.S. Taxpayer In Panama Papers Investigation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced today that HARALD JOACHIM VON DER GOLTZ, a/k/a “H.J. von der Goltz,” “Johan von der Goltz,” “Jochen von der Goltz,” “Tica,” “Tika,” pled guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses to wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, false statements, and other charges.  VON DER GOLTZ, a former U.S. resident and taxpayer, is charged along with Ramses Owens, Dirk Brauer, and Richard Gaffey, a/k/a “Dick Gaffey,” in connection with a decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca & Co. (“Mossack Fonseca”), a Panamanian-based global law firm, and its related entities. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Harald Joachim von der Goltz went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent U.S. tax laws in order to maintain his wealth and hide it from the IRS.  Using the specialized criminal services of global law firm Mossack Fonseca, von der Goltz set up shell companies and off-shore accounts to conceal millions of dollars.  Now, after years of concealment from the United States, von der Goltz has admitted guilt in a U.S. court and awaits sentencing that could result in a term in a U.S. prison.”

AAG Brian A. Benczkowski said:  “Over nearly two decades, von der Goltz conspired to keep his income hidden from U.S. tax authorities and law enforcement.  Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Department’s steadfast commitment to prosecute taxpayers who use offshore structures to obscure their wealth and evade their tax obligations.”According to the allegations contained in the Indictments[1], other filings in this case, and statements during court proceedings, including VON DER GOLTZ’s guilty plea hearing:

Since at least 2000 through 2017, VON DER GOLTZ conspired with others to conceal his assets and investments, and the income generated by those assets and investments, from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) through fraudulent, deceitful, and dishonest means.  During all relevant times, VON DER GOLTZ was a U.S. resident and was subject to U.S. tax laws, which required him to report and pay income tax on worldwide income, including income and capital gains generated in domestic and foreign bank accounts.  Nevertheless, VON DER GOLTZ evaded his tax reporting obligations by setting up a series of shell companies and bank accounts, and hiding his beneficial ownership of the shell companies and bank accounts from the IRS.  These shell companies and bank accounts made investments totaling tens of millions of dollars.  VON DER GOLTZ was assisted in this scheme through the use of Mossack Fonseca, including Ramses Owens, a Panamanian lawyer who previously worked at Mossack Fonseca, and by Richard Gaffey, a partner at a U.S.-based accounting firm.  Specifically, in furtherance of VON DER GOLTZ’s efforts to conceal his assets and income from the IRS, VON DER GOLTZ engaged the services of Mossack Fonseca, including Owens, to create a sham foundation and shell companies formed under the laws of Panama and the British Virgin Islands to conceal from the IRS and others the ownership by VON DER GOLTZ of accounts established at overseas banks, as well as the income generated in those accounts.  VON DER GOLTZ, Gaffey, and Owens also falsely claimed that VON DER GOLTZ’s elderly mother was the sole beneficial owner of the shell companies and bank accounts at issue because, at all relevant times, she was a Guatemalan citizen and resident, and – unlike VON DER GOLTZ – was not a U.S. taxpayer. 

*                *                *

VON DER GOLTZ, 82, a citizen of Germany and Guatemala who resided in Needham, Massachusetts, and Key Biscayne, Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit tax evasion, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; four counts of willful failure to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FINCEN Reports 114, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and two counts of false statements, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. 

VON DER GOLTZ is scheduled to appear before Judge Richard M. Berman on February 24, 2020, at 9:30 a.m., at which time it is anticipated Judge Berman will set a sentencing date.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentence for the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Gaffey is scheduled to proceed to trial on March 9, 2020, before Judge Berman. 

*                *                *

U.S. Attorney Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of IRS - Criminal Investigation and HSI, and thanked the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their significant assistance in the investigation.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, which provided significant assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from the United Kingdom.  He also thanked law enforcement partners in France, the United Kingdom, Panama, and Germany for their assistance in the case.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit and Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit, working in partnership with the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Eun Young Choi and Thane Rehn, along with Trial Attorneys Michael Parker and Parker Tobin of the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges as to Owens, Brauer, and Gaffey are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the texts of the Indictments and the descriptions of the Indictments set forth herein constitute only allegations as to Owens, Brauer, and Gaffey, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.


Jim Margolin, Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600

Updated February 18, 2020

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 20-067