Panama Papers’ ‘Prince Fred’ tells of ‘business secrets’ in top court

Gianni Mota maintained his undercover surveillance even as Panamanian prosecutors indicated they would reveal more details about the offshore company he used

Gianni Mota has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the United States, after setting up an offshore company and hiding the proceeds of his business and self-advancement in a secret account.

Mota, whose eccentric life and mysterious background has attracted worldwide attention, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Undercover video obtained by the BBC shows Mota’s dramatic transformation from ambitious businessman to compliant witness in one year.

Prosecutors told court they will now reveal details of the offshore company, incorporating a shell company offshore which would then freeze its US assets and leave the proceeds invested in an entity outside of the US.

Mota tells the court how he launched a successful email-based fortune cookie company to generate $5m in profit and developed into a multi-million dollar business.

As prosecutors shift their focus to the offshore shell company, Mota identifies himself by a pen name, “Prince Fred”. This confirms to the court that the men were in fact Mota and he asks them to continue the investigation.

“I was hoping they would focus on paying me. What I’m paying them now is not in any way like that, but I was hoping at least in some way they would … [pay me] half [of] what they owe me,” says Mota.

With Mota cooperating and assurance that the government could not challenge the offshore company’s ownership, the lawyers back down and finally agree to continue the investigation.

“Then I’m going to show you the company,” Mota tells the government prosecutor, clearly willing to continue what was already well underway. “That will take you about 10 minutes, so if you’re a man, you know how to use a computer.”

In the end, the bulk of the agreement was structured as payments to the US government. In total, the Canadian businessman must pay $1.7m to the US government and his company will be dissolved.

In an emotional scene in the Federal Courthouse in Miami, Mota acknowledges he is guilty and he is willing to admit his role in the corruption of foreign officials, such as a former president of Paraguay.

“These bribes were bribes and I agree with them to these bribes. Please accept the blame and accept the fact that you know it, and you know the consequences of it. And, sir, you did not help me, sir, you did not help the government, sir, you did not help the country, and we hope – forgive me – for this –” he concludes in the federal courtroom.

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