Several well-known names, with links to trusts in tax havens, have been exposed by the Pandora papers, which is the latest trove of leaked data exposing tax haven secrecy by the global super rich. The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which shared access with the Guardian, BBC and other media outlets around the world. The Indian Express, which is part of the collective investigating these documents, had collated the Indian names and their links to tax havens—among these are: Anil Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Adani, Niira Radia, Ajit Kerkar (whose son ran Cox & Kings), Kiran Majumdar Shaw’s husband, Nirav Modi’s sister and others. Meanwhile, an official spokesperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had said that cases about 'Pandora Papers' would be investigated.
The Pandora Papers comprise 11.9 million leaked files from 14 global corporate services companies, which set up around 29,000 off-the-shelf companies and private trusts. These shell companies were set up in obscure tax jurisdictions and countries such as Singapore, New Zealand, and the US, for clients from across the world.
Last year, Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, the chief of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (R-ADA) group had claimed to be bankrupt and told a UK court that he had sold off his jewellery for Rs9 crore to pay off legal expenses and owns 'nothing meaningful'. He even claimed wife and family were bearing his costs and that he had even taken a loan from his son Anmol to the tune of several crores.
The Pandora Papers revealed that Mr Ambani and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies, and seven of these companies have borrowed and invested at least US$1.3 billion. However, according to Indian Express, Mr Ambani is not the only one, and several big-ticket defaulters at home have millions stashed abroad.
Indian Express says
, "Records in the Pandora Papers reveal that the chairman of Reliance ADA group and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies in Jersey, British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Cyprus. Set up between 2007 and 2010, seven of these companies have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion."
"In Jersey, Anil Ambani owned three companies—Batiste Unlimited, Radium Unlimited and Hui Investment Unlimited — that were incorporated between December 2007 and January 2008."
"Batiste Unlimited and Radium Unlimited are owned by Reliance Innoventures Pvt Ltd, the ultimate holding company of ADA Group. Hui Investment Unlimited is owned by AAA Enterprises Ltd (Reliance Inceptum Pvt Ltd since 2014), which is a promoter company of Reliance Capital," the report says.
Last year, Mr Ambani appeared before a UK court under Rule 71 via video conferencing over a lawsuit brought by three State-controlled Chinese banks over non-repayment of loans.
When asked about the 12 million equity shares he owned in Reliance Innoventures, the R-ADA group chief claimed that the shares were worthless. Anil Ambani added that he had borrowed Rs500 crore from his mother and Rs310 crore from his son Anmol. In October 2018, Mr Ambani claimed he took a loan of Rs500 crore from his mother, but when the lawyer asked him to reveal the loan terms, he said he was not privy to the actual terms of the loan.
In 2012, Anil Ambani took a loan of over $700 million for his company Reliance Communication Ltd (RCom) from three Chinese banks for which he provided a personal guarantee. The company is currently caught in insolvency proceedings.
The banks managed to get a judgement debt to the tune of $717 million against Mr Ambani. Mr Ambani was asked to provide a list of assets to the UK court along with bank statements and credit card statements for the past 24 months, since he failed to pay the banks as per the court's direction.
The total debts of Anil Ambani last year stood at US$716,917,681 (about Rs5,281 crore).
According to the newspaper
, Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, who has been a member of the Rajya Sabha, his wife Anjali and father-in-law Anand Mehta are named as beneficial owners (BOs) and directors of a British Virgin Islands (BVI)-based company, Saas International Ltd. The data is part of documents from Panamian law firm, Alcogal, with their company being incorporated by LJ Management (Suisse).
While the paper has more details, it is also important to note that Mrinmoy Mukherjee, CEO and director of Sachin Tendulkar Foundation told Indian Express: “The referenced investment by Mr Tendulkar has been made by him from his tax paid funds under the liberalised remittance scheme (LRS) and has been duly accounted for and declared in his tax returns." He further said, we “wish to strongly reiterate the legitimacy of the referenced investment by Mr Tendulkar, the payment of taxes on such funds, and the declaration of such investment in Mr Tendulkar’s tax returns.”
This year, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) barred Allegro Capital Pvt Ltd and its chairman and chief executive (CEO) Kunal Ashok Kashyap from the markets for one year over his involvement in insider trading in the scrip of Biocon Ltd.
has found that John McCallum Marshall Shaw, a British citizen and husband of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, executive chairperson of Biocon, set up a trust with Kunal Ashok Kashyap, who is barred by SEBI.
"What SEBI or the regulatory authorities did not know then was that Kunal Kashyap is the 'protector' of The Deanstone Trust, set up in New Zealand in July 2015 by Mauritius-based Glentec International, the 'settlor'. Glentec, which holds 19.76% in Biocon, is 99% owned by John McCallum Marshall Shaw," the report says.
The paper says, he is also a Director in Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation along with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and her husband John Shaw. Ms Shaw has provided an explanation to the paper. She is quoted as saying, “Neither my husband, nor I nor Mr Kashyap are either shareholders, trustees, directors, settlors or beneficiaries of the Trust…Members of both our families are foreign nationals and beneficiaries of this trust. Any contribution received by any member of the family are in compliance with the laws in that jurisdiction”.
The Indian Express
reporting from the Pandora Papers says, the brother of billionaire Gautam Adani set up a company in the British Virgin Islands three years ago. He now claims that the company has been 'closed'. “The records show that Vinod Shantilal Shah Adani, elder brother of Gautam Adani, set up Hibiscus RE Holdings Ltd in the British Virgin Islands in 2018. Vinod Adani, who is a Cyprus national residing in Dubai, is the sole shareholder of this offshore firm with 50,000 shares, and a director since May 2018."
This is not for the first time that Vinod Adani’s name has figured in a company registered in a 'tax haven'. His name appeared in Panama Papers, which was reported by The Indian Express in 2016, in connection with a company set up in the Bahamas on 4 January 1994 — just months after the formation of Adani Group’s flagship company Adani Exports,” says the newspaper.
The well-known corporate lobbyist, whose leaked conversations with India’s most powerful people had made waves a few years ago, figures in Pandora Papers
, after having earlier figured in the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, says Indian Express
. Ms Radia is a 'do not contact client' of corporate service provider firm Trident Trust Company BVI, who has been conducting her offshore transactions through London-based Sanjay Newatia, a former Credit Suisse banker, says the paper.
She told the paper, "I have no shareholding in any of the companies mentioned in your mail; I do not recognize any of these companies and neither do I recognize the transactions which you have referred to.”
The newspaper report also reveals that the sister of Nirav Modi had set up a trust just a month before he fled India. Even the brother of billionaire Gautam Adani had set up a company in the British Virgin Islands three years ago, which he now claims is closed. Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff was the prime beneficiary of a trust set up in New Zealand by his mother-in-law, show records investigated by the newspaper.
He is the once powerful hotelier who controlled the Taj Group of Hotels and was a key satrap at the Tata group. Since then, his acquisition of the public sector Centaur Hotel in Mumbai has been riddled with controversy and as promoter of the now bankrupt travel firm Cox and Kings Ltd, Ajay Ajit Peter Kerkar is under arrest. The Indian Express investigation into the Pandora Paper has revealed that he owns two BVI trusts and is connected to at least half a dozen offshore firms.
Records show that between September 2015 and October 2016, Mr Kerkar, through Castleman Management, became a guarantor to a US$45-million loan given by Cayman Islands-based SSG Secured Lending Opportunities to Kubber Investment (Mauritius) Pvt Ltd, a shareholder of Cox and Kings.
Confidential records of Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express show several cases of big-ticket loan defaulters who declare themselves bankrupt before recovery tribunals – some have even been arrested – but hold billions via offshore entities abroad.
The newspaper says that these details
will be featured in the coming days in the investigative series which includes a set of Mumbai-based businessmen in the real-estate sector who owe Indian banks more than Rs88,000 crore.
According to the newspaper report, a Delhi-based businessman named in the 2G Spectrum case, a prominent Indian businessman who fled India and was busy collecting character certificates from Nigerian banks to expand his oil business, a Mumbai-based jeweller, whose firm has defaulted to the tune of Rs500 crore on loan repayments to 19 Indian banks, a Kolkata-based businessman, slapped with the biggest ever Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) notice of Rs7,220 crore and several non-resident Indians (NRIs), who declared themselves as bankrupt before recovery tribunals – some have even arrested – but hold billions via offshore entities abroad.
Investigations in cases of Pandora Papers leaks will be monitored and the probe will be headed by the chairman of CBDT, along with representatives from CBDT, Enforcement Directorate (ED), Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the official from CBDT says.