New Delhi: Over 500 Indians, including top Bollywood actors, industrialists and politicians have been named in a massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents exposing their secret offshore dealings.
An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of world leaders, businessmen, sports person and celebrities.
In India, The Indian Express formed part of the investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that exposed the vast stash of records obtained from an anonymous source by a German daily, Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The documents, from around 214,000 offshore entities covering almost 40 years, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.
The list includes Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, DLF's K P Singh along with nine family members, Gautam Adani's elder brother Vinod Adani, Indiabulls promoter Sameer Gehlaut and Apollo Tyres promoter. The list also named two politicians – Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal, former chief of Delhi Loksatta Party.
“Amitabh Bachchan was appointed director in at least four offshore shipping companies set up in 1993. Similarly, Aishwarya Rai and her family members were registered in 2005 as directors of Amic Partners Limited. Her status was later changed to share holder before the company was dissolved in 2008. DLF promoters KP Singh acquired a company registered in British Virgin Islands in 2010. His family's three offshore entities hold almost $10 million,” report in The Indian Express reads.
As per Reserve Bank of India guidelines, Indian citizens were not allowed to start an overseas entity before 2003.
However, in 2004, the RBI allowed individuals to remit funds of up to $25,000 a year under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS). But it never allowed Indian citizens to set up companies abroad.
Names of around 140 political leaders including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping figured on the list.
The leaked data from 1975 to the end of last year provides what the ICIJ described as a ‘never-before-seen view inside the offshore world.’
The leaked documents were reviewed by a team of more than 370 reporters from over 70 countries, according to the ICIJ.
The BBC cited Mossack Fonseca as saying it had operated ‘beyond reproach’ for 40 years and had never been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
It was not immediately clear who was the original source of the leaked documents.