Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has said his name was “misused” and that nothing illegal has been attributed to him after a fresh report on the “Panama Papers” alleged he “participated” in board meetings of two off-shore companies “by telephone conference”.
The Indian Express reported on Thursday that Sea Bulk Shipping and Tramp Shipping had passed a resolution each on December 12, 1994, in connection with a loan of $1.75 million from Dallah Albaraka Investment Company based on new records obtained and investigated by it.
The loan was for Constellation Ship Management for the purchase of all the shares issued by Tramp Shipping and held by Sea Bulk Shipping. Besides Tramp and Sea Bulk, the paper had said Bachchan was the managing director for two other offshore entities - Lady Shipping and Treasure Shipping.
“Both resolutions recorded Bachchan’s participation in board meetings ‘by telephone conference’. In their certificate of incumbency issued the same day, both companies also recorded Bachchan as director. The companies had the same directors, including Bachchan, and officers,” it said.
The Express had reported on April 4 that records of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca showed that Bachchan served as director of these four offshore shipping companies between 1993 and 1997. Bachchan had issued a statement saying he did not know any of the companies, had not been a director of any of them and that “it is possible that (his) name has been misused”.
In response, Bachchan’s office again sent a rejoinder, which was also posted on his Twitter account.
“On Panama disclosures, I wish to state that queries continue to be sent to me by the media. I would humbly request them to kindly direct these to the GOI (Government of India) where I, as a law abiding citizen, have already sent, and shall continue to send, my responses,” the post said.
“I stand by my earlier statement on the ‘misuse of my name’ in the matter and in any event the press reports do not disclose any illegal act committed by me.”
The Indian Express, based on Mossack Fonseca records, said Umesh Sahai of Jersey-based corporate service provider City Management (now Minerva Trust) was one of the founder-directors of the four shipping companies and that he had appointed Bachchan as director and managing director in 1993.
“He (Sahai) also signed the board resolutions that recorded Bachchan’s participation in the December 12, 1994, meetings. Sahai did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking his comment on Bachchan’s statement denying any knowledge of the companies,” the newspaper said.
Bachchan’s name cropped up in the reports as part of a global expose of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and over 100 global media organisations, based on millions of leaked documents of Mossack Fonseca.
A high-level probe team has been constituted, with members drawn from the various agencies of the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) based on the orders issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Indian authorities have already said not all off-shore funds need be illegitimate.