As published on republicworld.com, Tuesday 16 November, 2021.
Cracking down on money laundering, the Enforcement Directorate's Chandigarh unit on Tuesday, has arrested real estate group IREO MD Lalit Goyal. The ED had detained Goyal on Thursday in connection with a money-laundering probe against him at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in Delhi. This is the first arrest made in the 'Pandora papers' case.
As per reports, Goyal was questioned at the airport by the ED's Chandigarh unit in connection to a money laundering case where an estimated $77 million of home buyers' funds, investments and shareholdings were diverted offshore. Goyal's legal team has already refuted the allegations, asserting that no funds were diverted abroad. Goyal is one of the 380 persons of Indian nationality named in the 'Pandora papers' which has revealed 29,000 off-the-shelf companies to stash money offshore in tax havens and popular countries such as Singapore, New Zealand, and the United States.
On October 4, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) stated that it will probe into the allegations revealed in the Pandora papers. The Centre set up a multi-agency group include the Enforcement Directorate, Reserve Bank of India, Financial Intelligence Unit and Central Board of Direct Taxes to probe into it. As per the 'Pandor papers' published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Goyal has been accused of moving assets, investments, and shareholdings, worth an estimated $77 million to four offshore trusts registered in the British Virgin Islands.
ICIJ has published the 'Pandora Papers' based on the 11.9 million leaked files from 14 global corporate services firms which set up about 29,000 shell companies in multiple countries. The ICIJ, including the Indian Express, has named at least 380 persons of Indian nationality in the Pandora Papers, verifying documents related to about 60 individuals and companies so far. The Pandora papers reveal how these individuals, already under investigative agencies' radar, have set up trust structures for estate planning in offshore entities. This is allegedly done to distance themselves from the offshore entities, evading tax authorities and safeguard their investments — cash, shareholdings, real estate, art, aircraft, and yachts — from creditors.
The documents also expose offshore dealings of the presidents of Kenya, Ecuador, Ukraine, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the King of Jordan among others. The ICJI also claims to have secret records of 130 billionaires from the US, Russia, Turkey and other nations. Previously, the ICIJ had revealed the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers which helped the Centre detect undisclosed credits of Rs 20,352 crore till September 15, 2021.