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Panama Papers leak: Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya among 500 Indians exposed in tax haven dump

A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents has exposed the secret offshore dealings of various world leaders and Indian celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai and corporates like DLF’s KP Singh and Gautam Adani’s elder brother, reports Indian Express.

The secret tax files were leaked from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm headquartered in tax haven Panama. According to the same report, over 500 Indians figure on the Mossack’s list of offshore companies, foundations and trusts.

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan was a director of four offshore shipping firms- one in British Virgin Islands (BVI) and three in Bahamas-that were set up in 1993, said the report. The report also stated that Bachchan’s daughter-in-law Aishwarya was director of a firm in BVI before it was dissolved in 2008.

No Indian citizen could float an overseas entity before 2003 according to per RBI norms. So the setting up of companies by these people seems a clear violation of Indian laws.

An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures – including 12 current or former heads of states, AFP reported.

The vast stash of records was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media worldwide by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The investigation yielded 11.5 million documents from around 214,000 offshore entities, the ICIJ said.

Current and former leaders of Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Iceland, Georgia, Qatar and Iraq were among those named in the documents. Families and associates of Syrian president Bashar Assad, former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak have also been implicated.

Though most of the alleged dealings are said by the ICIJ to be legal they are likely to have a serious political impact on many of those named.

Among the main claims of the ICIJ investigations: Close associates of Putin, who is not himself named in the documents, “secretly shuffled as much as USD2 billion through banks and shadow companies,” the ICIJ said.

The files identified offshore companies linked to the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has led a tough anti-corruption campaign in his country, the ICIJ said.

In Iceland, the files allegedly show Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and his wife secretly owned an offshore firm holding millions of dollars in Icelandic bank bonds during the country’s financial crisis.

The law firm of a member of FIFA’s ethics committee, Juan Pedro Damiani, had business ties with three men indicted in the FIFA scandal: former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo, as well as Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano who were accused of paying bribes to win soccer broadcast rights in Latin America.

Argentine football great Messi and his father owned a Panama company, Mega Star Enterprises Inc., a shell company that had previously not come up in Spanish investigations into the father and son’s tax affairs.

Also in the world of football, Francetvinfo named UEFA president Michel Platini as the beneficiary of a Panama-based tax company, adding however that no illegal activity was alleged.

Platini’s communications service said in a statement sent to AFP that “all of his accounts and assets are known to the tax authorities in Switzerland, where he has been a tax resident since 2007”. (AFP)

Meanwhile, Panama’s government has vowed to “vigorously cooperate” with any legal probe that might be launched in the wake of the “Panama Papers” data leak.

“The Panamanian government will vigorously cooperate with any request or assistance necessary in the event of any legal action occurring,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The Central American nation is reeling from revelations that one of its high-profile but secretive law firms, Mossack Fonseca, allegedly helped major politicians and celebrities around the world hide assets from tax authorities, according to a data leak picked over by scores of media outlets.