A fresh, vast leak of financial records, dubbed the Paradise Papers, has shined the light on how global corporate giants and hedge funds allegedly skirted taxes and the apparently hidden wealth of prominent Indians. This cache of 13.4 million documents follows over a year after the release of the Panama papers and includes names of Indians such as Amitabh Bachchan, MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, and Vijay Mallya, among others, reported Indian Express. The paper has not suggested any illegality associated with the leaked names.
India ranks 19th out of the 180 countries covered under the leaked data in terms of the number of names involved, reported the Indian Express on Monday. Further, according to the report, 714 Indians find mention in the papers.
The leaked data, obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, as was the case with the Panama Papers, and investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), originates from two firms – Bermuda's Appleby and Singapore's Asiaciti – as well as from 19 tax havens across the world.
In fact, the national daily highlights that an Indian company, the Nand Lal Khemka-founded Sun Group, was found to be Appleby’s second-largest client internationally with 118 separate offshore entities.
Involvement of Indian scam-tainted firms
The papers, according to the report, also reveal that Appleby's Indian clients included firms that are under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) scanner in relation to various cases. Firms involved in the Sun-TV-Aircel-Maxis case, Essar-Loop 2G case, SNC-Lavalin Kerala hydroelectric scandal (which involved the now-acquitted Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan), and the Rajasthan ambulance scam under the CBI.
Further, the national daily reported that the leaked papers have a relation to fresh financial links in a CBI case against YSR Congress Chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Prominent Indian corporates in the Appleby database include GMR Group, Jindal Steel, Apollo Tyres, Havells, Hindujas, Emaar MGF, Videocon, the Hiranandani Group and D S Construction.
Prominent Indian individuals named
The names of Indian celebrities, politicians and business tycoons figure in the documents too. According to the Indian Express report, the data reveals details about Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's stakes in a Bermuda company acquired before the 2004 Liberalised Remittance Scheme came into force. The names of lobbyist Niira Radia and actor Sanjay Dutt's wife also figure in the documents.
Further, according to the report, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha's past association with the Omidyar Network has resulted in his name figuring in the records too. Another Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Rajya Sabha MP and founder of Security and Intelligence Services R K Sinha, figures in as well with records of offshore companies linked to him being part of the leak too.
In response to the report, Sinha issued a statement: "Full details have been provided to Indian Express. These were bonafide and legal transactions undertaken on behalf of highly reputed world-leading organisations in my fiduciary role as Partner at Omidyar Network and its designated representative on the D.Light Board. All these transactions have been fully disclosed to relevant authorities through all necessary filings as required. After leaving Omidyar Network, I was asked to continue on the D.Light Board as an Independent Director. On joining the Union Council of Ministers, I immediately resigned from the D.Light Board and severed my involvement with the company. It is crucial to note that these transactions were done for D.Light as an Omidyar representative, and not for any personal purpose."
Absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya is also named in the leaked data, which, according to the national daily, show how Diageo waived millions of dollars worth of loans taken by United Spirits Limited India's offshore companies.
As reported before, this vast leak of financial documents reveals that US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has business ties to a shipping firm linked to Vladimir Putin's inner circle. It also reveals Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's investments in tax havens.
It was also revealed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's top fundraiser and senior advisor Stephen Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune, moved some $60 million to offshore tax havens with ex-senator Leo Kolber.
There is no suggestion that Ross, Bronfman or the queen's private estate acted illegally.