Over 380 Indians have been named in the 'Pandora Papers' – the millions of leaked files casting light on around 29,000 off-the-shelf companies and private trusts set up by 14 global corporate services firms.
An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which includes 150 media outlets, including The Indian Express, claims to have revealed the secret world of offshore finance and divulged the private financial affairs of “rich, the famous and the notorious” from 91 countries.
Sixty of the prominent Indian individuals and companies named have been verified and have had their documents corroborated.
These Indian elites were identified to be part of “complex multi-layered trust structures”, which were being set up in parts of the world that were “loosely regulated for tax purposes, but characterised by air-tight secrecy laws.”
As per the files, Indian cricketer and former Member of Rajya Sabha Sachin Tendulkar, his wife Anjali Tendulkar and father-in-law Anand Mehta were the beneficial owners of a British Virgin Islands offshore company – Saas International Limited – which liquidated in 2016.
The liquidation of Saas International Limited assumes significance as it transpired shorty after the Panama Papers expose.
Tendulkar’s attorney, however, has claimed that Tendulkar’s investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities.
An investigation of the Pandora Papers records, undertaken by The Indian Express, has also revealed that the chairperson of Reliance ADA Group and his associates own at least 18 offshore companies across Jersey, British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Cyprus.
Seven of these firms, set up within three years, have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion.
Ambani, who filed for bankruptcy in a United Kingdom court this year, reportedly owns three off-the-shelf companies by the name of Batiste Unlimited, Radium Unlimited and Hui Investment Unlimited in Jersey.
Furthermore, the Indian Express reported that before the fugitive diamantaire absconded from India in 2018, his sister Purvi Modi set up a company in the British Virgin Islands, acting as a corporate protector of a trust formed through the Trident Trust Company, Singapore.
Purvi Modi's lawyer, however, denied all allegations of wrongdoing, the newspaper reported.
The investigation by 600 journalists from all over the world revealed how “complex multi-layered trust structures for estate planning” were being set up in parts of the world that are “loosely regulated for tax purposes, but characterised by air-tight secrecy laws.”
Popular Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff was also reported to be a part of this complex structure, with The Indian Express revealing that he was the prime beneficiary of a trust set up in New Zealand by his mother-in-law, Caudia Dutt.
Dutt formed Media Trust, a company providing trust and corporate services and registered with the London Fiduciary Trust Company.
Records indicated that Shroff also made “substantial contributions” to this trust, which had a Swiss bank account and also presided over an offshore firm registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Corporate lobbyist Niira (Nira) Radia, a “do not contact client” of Trident Trust Company BVI was found to be linked with a dozen offshore firms. As per The Indian Express, Radia has been conducting her offshore transactions through London-based Sanjay Newatia, a former Credit Suisse banker.
Radia, who was also previously named in the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, was reportedly found to have connections with companies such as Irthema Associates Limited; Roxbury Estates Limited; Elmashe Holdings Limited; Thyere Investments Limited; Malaga Overseas Limited; Collets Trading Limited; Kingston International Limited; Himlen Trading SA; Zilla Limited; Koios Holding Limited; Mehone Consultants Limited; and Nyine Holdings Ltd.
Vinod Shantilal Shah Adani
The Pandora Papers also reveal that Vinod Adani, brother of billionaire Gautam Adani, established a firm in British Virgin Islands three years ago – a company he now claims has been shut down, The Indian Express reported.
Dubai-based Vinod Shantilal Shah Adani set up Hibiscus RE Holdings Limited in 2018. As per the files, Adani is the shareholder of this offshore company with 50,000 shares, and a director since May of that year.
The investigation also uncovered that John Shaw, the husband of Executive Chairperson of Biocon Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, set up an entity in New Zealand, The Deanstone Trust, which was 'protected' by Kunal Ashok Kashyap.
Market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) barred Kashyap from trading in the stock market in June this year, as well as ordered disgorgement of wrongful gains of Rs 24.68 lakh with 12 per cent interest for three-and-a-half years, and penalised them Rs 10 lakh each for insider trading in Biocon Ltd shares, The Indian Express reported.
Other Indian nationals named in the papers include Akbar Asif, the brother of Iqbal Mirchi’s second wife; Asif's wife Kavita Charles Singh; Lt Gen Shafaat Ullah Shah's wife Fariah Shah; his son Raza Ullah Shah; and Samir Thapar among others.
(With inputs from The Indian Express.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)