The names of actors Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, real estate tycoon KP Singh and late gangster Iqbal Mirchi figured in a list of over 500 Indians who allegedly used a law firm in Panama to set up offshore entities in tax havens across the world, a newspaper reported on Monday.
The Indian Express said a study of more than 11 million documents from the secret files of Mossack Fonseca, the Panama law firm, showed that Indians possibly violated tax rules or masked ownership of firms they allegedly set up abroad.
The newspaper claimed that while Aishwarya Rai was a shareholder of a firm in the British Virgin Islands, her father-in-law – superstar Amitabh Bachchan – was the director of four shipping companies in the Bahamas. It said Indiabulls owner Sameer Gahlaut acquired “three top London properties” via “entities” in the Bahamas and Jersey, and DLF promoter KP Singh and his family owned firms in the British Virgin Islands.
The promoters of Apollo Tyres, business tycoon Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod Adani, West Bengal politician Shishir Bajoria and former Loksatta Party leader Anurag Kejriwal were some other Indians named in the newspaper report.
Until 2003, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) norms did not allow an Indian citizen to set up an overseas entity. In 2004, resident Indians were allowed to remit funds of up to $25,000 a year under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) – the limit of which stands at $250,000 a year now.
The Indian Express claimed that while RBI let individuals buy shares under LRS, it never permitted them to set up companies abroad. The Mossack Fonseca documents allegedly show companies were set up long before the rules were changed, and the purpose may have been to park foreign exchange in a tax haven.
Individuals named in the newspaper report were yet to comment, and government officials were expected to respond later. The report in the Indian Express formed part of an investigation by an international coalition of media outlets into the offshore financial dealings of the rich and famous, based on a vast trove of documents provided by an anonymous source.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organisation based in Washington, said the cache of 11.5 million records detailed the offshore holdings of a dozen present and former world leaders, besides businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars. Political figures from Iceland, Ukraine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina were named in the reports.
Hindustan Times wasn’t immediately able to verify the allegations made in the articles that were published by over 100 news organisations across the world.