The highly anticipated trial of 27 individuals charged in connection with the explosive Panama Papers money laundering scandal has commenced in a Panamanian criminal court this month. 

Among the defendants are Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca Mora, the two founders of the now-defunct Mossack Fonseca law firm at the center of the 2016 leak of millions of secret financial documents. The unprecedented data breach exposed how the world’s ultra-wealthy exploited offshore tax havens to conceal their assets.

Mossack and Fonseca face allegations of money laundering, though they have consistently maintained their innocence, asserting that neither they, their firm, nor its employees engaged in any unlawful activities. In 2017, Mossack Fonseca claimed it was the victim of a computer hack and that the leaked data was being misrepresented.

During the trial’s opening session, Mossack was present in the Panamanian courtroom, while lawyers stated that Fonseca, a former government minister, was hospitalized.

If convicted, the two founders could each face up to 12 years in prison.

The leak of 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca’s servers in 2016 sent shockwaves globally as it revealed the intricate financial networks used by political leaders, billionaires, celebrities and corporations to unlawfully hide their wealth in offshore tax havens like Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

The two men shuttered Mossack Fonseca in 2018 amid the sweeping investigations and public backlash sparked by the Panama Papers revelations.

The trial is expected to go on for many months as prosecutors lay out their case against the firm and its employees who allegedly facilitated the large-scale tax evasion and money laundering schemes exposed in the data leak.