Panama Papers Leak: Existence of one offshore entity owned by Niira Radia

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Panama Papers leak on Indians owning offshore accounts have thrown up the name of PR professional Niira Radia, who was in news in 2010 after her phone intercepts became subject of huge controversy.

Indian Express,which is a part of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that unearthed the Panama Papers leak,  reported on Wednesday that the investigation of papers showed the existence of one offshore entity owned by Radia, an International Business Company (IBC) registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by Mossack Fonseka in 1994 named Crownmart International Group Limited.

After what came to be known as ‘Radiagate,’ many investigation agencies, including the Income Tax Department, had launched a probe into the corporate structure headed by her and her company, Vaishnavi Communications.

Income Tax authorities explored leads in about 10 countries to trace her purported offshore assets and accounts. But, they failed to stumble upon any evidence until Panama Papers Leak took place earlier this week.

Here’s what Indian Express has to say on revelation on Radia.

“An investigation of these papers shows the existence of one offshore entity owned by Radia, an International Business Company (IBC) registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by Mossack Fonseka in 1994 named Crownmart International Group Limited. There are resolutions until June 2004 which are signed by her. Records show the company was struck off the Mossack Fonseka registers in 2009 and in March 2012, there is a mention of the company printed in the Virgin islands Official Gazette by the BVI Financial Services Commission stating that the company would be struck off records should they not appoint a Registered Agent within 30 days.

In all, there are 232 documents on the company in the MF files. These include the company’s incorporation documents; the share certificates in the names of the directors, including Radia herself. Radia is shown as a British citizen in these documents and, interestingly, it is publicly known that Radia had a company by the name of Crownmart International (India) pvt Ltd when in London which has been described as a “general business” enterprise set up by her. Both the companies, it now turns out, were family enterprises with Radia herself being the primary shareholder.”

Response from Radia’s office:

“It is correct that Ms Radia is UK citizen since birth and she still holds UK passport. Ms Radia is also Overseas Citizen of India since nearly 2006 (OCI). Before OCI, Ms Radia was PIO card holder since nearly 1998. Crownmart International Group Ltd. was a company owned and operated by Late Mr Iqbal Narain Menon, a British National (Ms Niira Radia’s father). Late Mr Menon was neither Indian resident nor Indian citizen. Subsequent to the demise of Ms Radia’s father in 2003, this company went into administration/ liquidation perhaps in 2007.

“It is pertinent to mention that because Ms Radia was/is not a beneficiary of the company and, hence, Ms Radia is not the right person to comment on your queries relating to this company specially when she does not have any access to the information / documents referred and relied upon by you. Further, some telephone approval of Ms Radia in 1997 as mentioned by you is almost 20 years old and Ms Radia does not recall any such thing.

“You would appreciate that taxation of any person in any jurisdiction of the world is personal, confidential and privileged matter and even tax authorities do not disclose such information to third parties. We would however like to inform you that Ms Radia had/has disclosed her assets to concerned tax authorities in UK / India as per applicable laws from time to time.”

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