Indian doyens shamed after the Panama Papers exposè
The Panama Papers, considered one of the biggest tax-related investigation that led to the leaks of classified documents that attributed secret capital offshore holdings, have essentially exposed a list of celebrity wealth-accumulators in the country who were incognito and ate into the major shares of public money that keeps the realm of taxation afloat.
The Panama Papers could be viewed in two aspects: the legal position as far the investment in offshore business entities by resident Indians is concerned and the motives of these highly ‘conceited’ offshore investments.
The names involved are astonishing and shed light on an entrenched hypocrisy blanketed by the ‘high’ virtues of nationalism and misleading outspokenness. The exposè reflects how certain sects of the press and the government law enforcement agencies went soft on a certain section of illicit big players while others like Vijay Mallya were hounded, if one can say ‘unfairly’.
The exposed kingmaker firm in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, is a law firm that pull strings to incorporate companies in offshore jurisdictions. The leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca have revealed names of nearly 500 resident Indians who have evaded tax by setting companies abroad using the funds in their foreign accounts. Setting up companies or offshore firms had been prohibited by the Reserve Bank of India until one year before.
However, the leaks confirmed that some of these names had established offshore entities even before 2004 when the RBI had first allowed channeling of Indian currency abroad ($25,000 annually) through Liberalised Remittance System (LRS).
Here are some of the most-celebrated Indian faces who are a part of the list.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
The actress and former Miss World was the director of a firm in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) according to the documents unearthed by The Indian Express. Apart from Mrs. Bachchan, her father Kotedadi Ramana Rai Krishna Rai, mother Vrinda Krishna Raj Rai and brother Aditya Rai were registered directors of Amic Partners Limited in 2005. Mrs. Bachchan’s status, according to a report in The Indian Express, was later changed to ‘shareholder’ before the company was dissolved in 2008.
The legendary Indian actor was appointed as the director of four shipping firms. According to reports, one of the shipping firms was in the BVI and the remaining three in Bahamas. The shipping firms were set up in 1993. Reportedly, though the authorized capital of these firms ranged between $5000-$50,000, the firms traded in ships worth millions of dollars.
The owner of realty corporation Indiabulls owns three high profile land properties through family entities in Karnal, Delhi, Bahamas, Jersey and the UK. Reportedly, these properties are currently being developed into hotel ventures.
K P Singh
The Indian real estate giant and owner of DLF, with his wife Indira K P Singh registered as the co-shareholder, had acquired a company registered in BVI in 2010. Reportedly, two or more companies were also set up by Singh’s son Rajiv Singh and daughter Pia Singh. The family’s foreign holdings are worth $10 million.
Other names include, Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod Adani, politicians Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and the former chief of the Delhi unit of Loksatta Party Anurag Kejriwal, and former Mumbai ganglord Iqbal Mirchi. Reportedly, scores of businessmen from various locations of India were named as a part of the list.
The BBC reported that the leak showed how Mossack Fonseca had helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax and the documents also link 72 current or former heads of state in the data, including dictators accused of looting their own countries, to the scam.
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