Panama papers’ new Indian names include jewellers, politicians and businessmen

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The Panama paper leaks have revealed more Indian names with offshore accounts and their business dealings.

The Panama Papers is a global investigation, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, into the sprawling, secretive industry of offshore that the world’s rich and powerful use to hide assets and skirt rules by setting up front companies in far-flung jurisdictions.

Based on a trove of more than 11 million leaked files, the investigation exposes a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking.

On Monday Indian Express, the Indian media partner in the team of this global investigative journalists, reported how some prominent names including Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Gaudam Adani’s elder brother, lawyer Harish Salve and the Appollo Group’s chairman were among those who had either opened offshore accounts or invested in companies abroad.

A day later, Indian Express has revealed more names of Politician, industrialist and jewellers.

Here are some of them.

Ashwani Kumar Mehra, Owner of Mehrasons Jewellers

No. of offshore entities: 7
Location: Bahamas and BVI

Ashwani Kumar Mehra’s corporate profile lists his sons, Deepak Mehra and Navin Mehra, as partners in his jewellery empire.

Since 1999, the family has registered seven offshore companies in the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. Among them, PTC Group Ltd is shown to be either a secretary or shareholder in the other companies.

Mossack Fonseca (MF) records show that apart from Mehra, wife Mala Rani and their two sons, two of these offshore entities — Maxhill Holdings Ltd and Stonebay International Ltd — have listed his daughters-in-law, Pooja and Shalini, as directors. Romi Sahai, a director with Minerva Trust, is shown as a director in some of these companies. Records show Mehra’s India address as New Delhi’s South Extension in public corporate records and Panchsheel Park in registration records, incorporation data and share certificates.

Response: Deepak Mehra said: “Yes, me and my family members are/were shareholders of the two offshore companies named Stonebay International Limited and Maxhill Holdings Ltd. These two companies were incorporated sometime in 2010 under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS). We have remitted all funds into these companies from India through normal banking channels as permitted by law under the LRS. These two companies have been duly declared to tax authorities and shown in the Income Tax returns of all members. We have, however, no shareholding or hold any other position in any other companies mentioned by you.”

Anurag Kejriwal, Former Delhi president of Lok Satta Party  

No. of offshore entities: 3 plus 2 foundations

Location: British Virgin Islands (BVI), Panama

Kejriwal was expelled because of a sting operation by a TV channel ahead of the 201 4 Lok Sabha elections.

Records list him as a director in at least three offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and show that he floated at least two private foundations in Panama. He is also shown as holding power of attorney of another BVI company. The Lok Satta was founded in 2006 by Jayaprakash Narayan, a former IAS officer. Kejriwal led the party’s unit in Delhi and was a member of its National Steering Committee but was expelled after the sting operation in April 2014. He lives in Delhi, has business interests in Kolkata.

The Kejriwal family has also floated two private foundations — The Nedstar Foundation and The Pruak Foundation. Nedstar Commercial also entered into a trade finance agreement with BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA to partly fund the sale and purchase of goods on September 3, 2007. Anurag and wife Uttara Kejriwal are primary beneficiaries of the Nedstar Foundation and Pruak Foundation. Both foundations had initial assets of $10,000, and the final beneficiary was Priyavrata Kejriwal, the couple’s son, a minor.

Response: “I am a businessman, and I trade in iron ore. We acted as agents. We got commissions through proper business channels. My partners had agreed to finance or support the exports of iron ore. So they said I could set up these entities. A chartered accountant helped us set them up.”

Gautam and Karan Thapar

Offshore entity: Charlwood Foundation, Nikom International Foundation Location: Panama 

Gautam and Karan Thapar, sons of Brij Mohan Thapar, took control of Crompton Greaves Limited after the division of the Thapar Group in 1999. Karan ran Crompton Greaves from 2000 as a director while Gautam worked with uncle Lalit Mohan Thapar of Ballarpur Industries Limited (BILT).

In 2005, Lalit Mohan handed control of BILT to Gautam. The same year, MF records show, Gautam and Karan set up a private foundation each in Panama. Lalit Mohan died in January 2007, leaving his shares and voting rights to Gautam. Karan quit Crompton Greaves in May 2007 and in November that year, Gautam launched Avantha Group which now controls both companies. Karan owns EICL Limited, along with Greaves Cotton Ltd and Premium Transmission Ltd.

RESPONSE: A spokesperson for Gautam Thapar stated: “Mr Thapar did not set up the foundation. He is not a beneficiary/stakeholder of any offshore foundation. However, his wife Mrs Stephanie Jacqueline Thapar, who is a German citizen and a resident of the UK, is a beneficiary of Charlwood Foundation.”

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