The partners of the offshore law firm whose confidential files were exposed in the Panama Papers leak, Mossack Fonseca, have launched defamation action against Netflix over a movie about the scandal that is due to be released on Friday.
In a US lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca say The Laundromat, in which they are respectively played by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, portrays them as “ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and/or other criminal conduct” and ask the court to stop it from being screened.
In documents filed to the court they say the release of the film is likely to subject them to “additional bail and/or conditions for each new crime imputed to them in the movie” in Panama, where they are set to go on trial on charges related to the law firm.
And it would also interfere with their right to a fair trial in the US, where they are under investigation by the FBI, they said in a legal memorandum filed with the district court in Connecticut.
“Once the cat is out of the bag, it is impossible to put it back without the consequence of tainting a verdict,” they say in the documents.
“This is especially true where the cat is named ‘Laundromat’ and the charges would include money laundering.”
Mossack and Fonseca complain that the trailer for the film, which also stars Meryl Streep as a woman who has lost her husband in a boat accident, makes them out to be “villains profiting from the death of 20 people killed in the small town boat tour”.
They also complain about scenes in the film featuring the pair’s fictionalised alter egos capering in suits covered in currency symbols and showing a sheikh, Russian gangsters and others saying “‘shit’ and/or other expletives in different languages” when the files are exposed.
“The implications and innuendo converge to cast plaintiffs in the light of mastermind criminals whose crimes include, but are not limited to, murder, bribery, money laundering and/or corruption,” Mossack and Fonseca say in the court documents.
The pair also complain the film lacks permission to use the logo of their firm, which a private investigator hired by them told the court it uses to promote itself on “pens, clocks, speakers, hats, notebooks, notepads, letter openers, wine opening kits, stationary, letterhead, signs, invoices, labels, doors, building facades, clothing, sponsorship signs, pamphlets, [and] coffee cups”.
“Ultimately, at the hands of the defendant, the plaintiffs unwarrantedly solidify a global finance role as poster children for money laundering and tax evasion, complete with a logo that the defendant ensures will guarantee a mental association with crime and corruption,” Mossack and Fonseca say in the documents.
They also attacked the director, Steven Soderbergh, for using offshore film finance vehicles and his press statements that the film did not portray the pair as villains.
“To claim that Mossack and Fonseca and their law firm are not villains in the movie is a cataclysmic understatement, which stands in wholly stark contrast to gist of the movie and the commentary by movie reviewers,” they said in their legal memo.
Netflix, which has been approached for comment, is yet to file a defence and a date for a hearing has not been set.
The 11.5m documents in the cache named a large number of rich and powerful people, sparking investigations around the world.
In addition to the Panamanian charges against Mossack and Fonseca, which they are fighting, four men associated with the firm have been charged with tax crimes in the US.