by Elton Gomes
A fresh investigation in the Panama Papers scandal has revealed that out of more than 1.2 million fresh documents, at least 12,000 have been linked to Indians. These figures are as per an investigation by the Indian Express in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.
According to the Indian Express, this new probe sheds light on how Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca struggled to respond to several questions amidst a global crackdown. The new investigation has now confirmed the existence of several customers who had previously denied any connections with the tainted firm. In addition, the probe clearly displays the money trail of new clients.
What the new papers reveal
The Indian Express reported that the new set of papers investigated by them reveals the details of offshore companies utilised by a group of Indian businessmen whose names did not figure in the initial leak in 2016.
The new set of papers include the names of “Ajay Bijli, owner of PVR cinemas, and members of his family; Kavin Bharti Mittal, CEO of Hike Messenger and son of Sunil Mittal; and Jalaj Ashwin Dani, son of Asian Paints promoter Ashwin Dani,” as per the Indian Express investigation. Furthermore, the new investigation shows that Mossack Fonseca sent notices to several companies established by Indians to produce missing information. These letters stated the names of the Beneficial Owner, or demanded that the name be disclosed soon.
Mossack Fonseca then served 90-day notices to clients and informed them that the firm would be resigning as Registered Agent as the companies did not meet legal due diligence requirements. The firm has confirmed that the following people have links to offshore entities: Shiv Khemka, Amitabh Bachchan, Jehangir Sorabjee, K. P. Singh of the DLF Group and members of his immediate family, Anurag Kejriwal, Navin Mehra of Mehrasons Jewellers, and Hajra Iqbal Memon and his family.
Another report in the Indian Express mentioned that three weeks before the scandal was published in 2016, internal email exchanges revealed names of UBOs (ultimate beneficial owners) of some companies – among these is KBM Global Limited. As per the Indian Express investigation, email exchanges between March 16 and March 17, 2016, reveal that KBM Global Limited’s BO is Kavin Bharti Mittal, who is the founder and CEO of Hike Messenger and son of Sunil Mittal, founder of Bharti Enterprises.
Who were named in 2016
The Indian Express along with the ICIJ first broke the news of the scandal in 2016, and named 415 Indians as the probe widened. Since then, the Panama Papers scandal has revealed the highly dubious links Indians have with offshore entities.
The 2016 probe mentioned a host of names from India’s elite, including billionaire property baron Kushal Pal Singh, recipient of the Padma Bhushan. Vinod Adani, brother of billionaire Gautam Adani, and billionaire real estate magnate Sameer Gehlaut were also named. It is alleged that Singh has close ties with the Congress party, while Adani is on good terms with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Veteran Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was also featured on the list.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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