Earlier it was Swiss Leaks, a global list with over 1,100 Indians with secret bank accounts for parking black money overseas. Now come The Panama Papers. These records, according to Indian Express reveal a list of 500 Indians who have paid Mossack Fonseca, a law firm for the benefits of the secretive offshore entities in tax havens around the world. The leaked “Panama Papers” cover a period over almost 40 years, from 1977 until last December, and allegedly show that some companies domiciled in tax havens were being used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals and tax evasion.
Eleven million documents were leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. They show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax. The company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing. This investigation named ‘Project Prometheus’ brought some Indian names in the spotlight.
The report suggests that many of the Indians, featured in this leak and who set up these offshore entities prior to 2013, are likely in violation of the Reserve Bank of India’s Liberalised Remittance Scheme — introduced in February 2004. But while RBI let individuals buy shares under LRS, it never allowed them to set up companies abroad, having clarified it through an FAQ mid-way in September 2010
The major Indians revealed in the first list are-
Location: BVI & Panama
The leaked files and subsequent investigation show that Amitabh Bachchan was appointed director in at least four offshore shipping companies- Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd in the British Virgin Islands, and Lady Shipping Ltd, Treasure Shipping Ltd and Tramp Shipping Ltd in the Bahamas — ranged from $5,000-50,000 but they traded in ships worth millions of dollars. These companies had been set up in tax havens, with one of them being in the British Virgin Islands and the other three in the Bahamas.
In another report, it was revealed, that for at least three years, Bachchan’s daughter in-law Aishwarya and her family were part of a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Her status was later changed to that of a shareholder and the offshore company was later dissolved in 2008.
Offshore entity: Stallast Ltd
Brother of billionaire Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, Zavaray heads the managing committee of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) and is on the board of four companies that deal with real estate, construction, hospitality and stud farms. MF records list Zavaray, wife Behroze and daughters Simone and Delna, as directors of Stallast Ltd set up in 2013 in the British Virgin Islands. Stallast was struck off the records in 2014.
Offshore entities: Crestbright Ltd, Pyebush Group Ltd, Edenval Ltd
One of the most sought-after lawyers in the country, Harish Salve has represented celebrity clients in the Supreme Court. He was Solicitor General of India between 1999 and 2002. MF records show that Salve and his family members registered three offshore companies in the BVI — Crestbright Ltd, Pyebush Group Ltd and Edenval Ltd — through the London-based agent Rawi & Co with Vasant Vihar in New Delhi as the India address. MF records include a recommendation letter from Salve to Rawi & Co in 2007, asking them to set up a company and a trust for Ramesh Mahajan and Asha Mahajan.
K P Singh & Family
Offshore entities: Willder Ltd, Alfa Investments Global Ltd and Beckon Investments Group Ltd.
MF records reveal that Singh and Indira KP Singh initially remitted funds in two tranches in September 2010 and October 2011 to buy Willder shares — Singh contributed $676,400 and Indira Singh $ 714,400. The total capital of another of his buy out, Alfa Investments Global Ltd in February end 2014 adds up to $ 3,756,400 or $3.75 million (Rs 25 crore). Beckon Investments, too, is highly capitalised, and given the shareholding of Singh’s son, Rajiv and his family members as on February-end 2014, the total capital adds up to $ 3,784,150 or $3.78 million – Rs 25 crore.