New Delhi: India ranks 19th among 180 countries whose citizens and companies sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens abroad, according to a fresh global investigation whose first lot of revelations were published on Monday.
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“In all, there are 714 Indians in the tally,” said the Indian Express in a front-page banner story done as part of a world-wide probe carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“Interestingly, it is an Indian company, Sun Group, founded by Nand Lal Khemka, that figures as Appleby’s second-largest client internationally, with as many as 118 different offshore entities,” the Express added.
Nand Khemka Chairman, SUN Group.
The revelations form part of the largest ever leak of financial data involving two companies, Bermuda’s Appleby and Singapore’s Asiaciti, which helped the global rich and powerful, including from India, to move their money abroad.
The Express said that among Appleby’s Indian clients were several prominent corporates and companies which subsequently came under the scrutiny of investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (EF).
Scams and cases
These include firms in the Sun-TV-Aircel-Maxis case; Essar-Loop 2G case; SNS-Lavalin in which Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was named and then cleared; the Rajasthan ambulance scam which has recently been routed to the CBI and which names a company called Ziquista Healthcare (Sachin Pilot and Karti Chidambaram were early honorary/independent directors of the firms respectively); and fresh financial links in a CBI case against YSR Congress chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Express said.
YSR Congress chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha’s name figures in the record because of his past association with Omidyar Network, so does the name of R.K. Sinha, BJP Rajya Sabha member of Parliament, in Malta offshore companies’ list.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.
Sinha and others had denied any wrongdoing in response to Express queries. Sinha also sent tweets on Monday saying full disclosure had been made to the authorities.
“Besides corporates, the data revealed details of individuals as well; Amitabh Bachchan’s shareholding in a Bermuda company acquired before the 2004 Liberalised Remittance Scheme kicked in; corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and film star Sanjay Dutt’s wife who figures under her former name Dilnashin,” the daily said.
Pakistanis on Paradise Papers
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has been named in the Paradise Papers, a fresh leak of financial documents revealing how the powerful and wealthy secretly invested vast amounts of money in offshore tax havens.
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is one of the prominent Pakistanis named in the Paradise Papers.
The world-wide probe was carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the leaks on Sunday consist of 13.4 million files. The revelations involve two companies, Bermuda’s Appleby and Singapore’s Asiaciti.
The most prominent Pakistani name that emerged from the fresh leaks was that of Aziz, the Musharraf-era Finance Minister who was Prime minister from 2004 to 2007, Dawn online reported.
Aziz worked for Citibank before entering politics and was “one of the shareholders and directors of the Bahamas-registered Cititrust Limited from 1997 to 1999, along with other executives of the bank”, the Dawn reported.
“Shaukat Aziz set up the Antarctic Trust in the name of his wife, three children and grand-daughter weeks before he came to Pakistan to lead the Finance Ministry,” ICIJ representative Umar Cheema told Geo News.
Cheema added that these assets were never declared to any Pakistani institution in financial documents Aziz submitted between 2003 and 2006.
“Appleby’s Bermuda office was the trust’s protector, acting as an independent overseer. In a 2012 internal memo, the law firm’s compliance officer noted that Aziz had been accused by the opposition of false declaration of assets, corruption and misappropriation of funds,” the ICIJ website said.
Antarctic Trust was closed in September 2015.
The ICIJ maintained that the Antarctic Trust held most of Aziz’s assets earned when he worked at Citicorp and was created before he relocated to Pakistan to be appointed the Finance Minister.
The purpose was “to insure that if he were to die, his assets would pass efficiently to his family”, Aziz’s lawyer told the ICIJ.
Ayaz Khan Niazi
A former Chairman of the National Insurance Corp Ltd, Ayaz Khan Niazi, was also named in the Paradise Papers in connection with four offshore holdings in the British Virgin Islands.
According to a report in the News daily, as many as 135 Pakistani individuals with accounts in a Swiss bank were also identified which they either created in their own name or through offshore companies.
Indians on ‘Paradise Papers’
It is a cache of 13.4 million documents named “Paradise Papers” leaked out 18 months after “Panama Papers”: both sets of data were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.
In India, as it did with Panama Papers, the Express investigated these records — involving Indians and Indian entities — for over 10 months to come up with the India findings which it said will be published in over 40 investigative reports beginning on Monday.