The ghost of Panama Papers Leak has returned to haunt Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and his family after more information has surfaced detailing the developments in the immediate aftermath of the last leak in April 2016.
An expose by Indian Express, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, reveals how Mossack Fonseca, which managed the dodgy offshore accounts of Indian celebrities acted desperately in response to an unprecedented global crackdown two years ago. Significantly, the new revelation also appears to confirm the existence of several customers including Amitabh Bachchan, who had denied any links, so far.
The new documents, according to Indian Express, also reveal how, shortly after the 2016 expose, Mossack Fonseca named Amitabh Bachchan as director of two companies Lady Shipping Ltd and Treasure Shipping Ltd and, in all its communications. It also subsequently served the 90-day notice to him via UK-based Minerva Trust — the administrator for these companies — addressing him as director of a third company, Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd. The notice conveyed Mossack Fonseca’s intent to resign as the company’s agent saying that Sea Bulk Shipping did not fulfil “our due diligence requirements.”
In November 2017, Bachchan had written a lengthy blog seeking ‘peace and freedom’ after being hounded by media persons on his involvement in the infamous Panama Papers Leak scandal. His blog had read, “At this age and time of my life, I seek peace and freedom from prominence… To be left to lead the last few years of my life with and within myself… I do not seek epithets, I abhor them… I do not seek headlines, I do not deserve them… I do not seek acknowledgement, I am not qualified for it.”
This was his name also surfaced in the Paradise Papers Leak, made public in late 2016.
According to 2016 Panama Papers Leak, two years before the Bollywood megastar launched Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited (ABCL) in 1995, he was appointed director in at least four offshore shipping companies. Records of international law firm Mossack Fonseca, reviewed by The Indian Express, and subsequent inquiries also showed that the four companies, in which Bachchan was appointed director, were registered in tax havens — one in the British Virgin Islands and three in the Bahamas in November 1993.
Bachchan was also managing director of all four companies. The other directors were representatives of firms that provide corporate and financial services. In all four cases, Warrant Secretaries Limited was appointed company secretary. Warrant Nominees Ltd and Warrant Services Ltd were issued 500 shares each.
Days later, new information had also revealed that Bachchan had attended one of the directoras’ meeting via telephone. The meetings of Tramp Shipping Limited (Bahamas) and Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd (British Virgin Islands), were held on 12 December, 1994.
Bachchan had denied allegations made in the Indian Express report on Panama Papers leak then.
On the day the Panama Papers Leak scandal rocked India, the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a probe by a Multi Agency Group (MAG).
Two years on, the information from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) — which heads the probe unit — is that in all, 426 Indians named in the Panama Papers have been put under the scanner and, until June 2018, Rs 1,088 crore ($162.4 million) of undisclosed income has been detected.