ASIA: What ED probe on Indian owners of offshore firms reveals

As published on: hindustantimes.com, Monday 5 February, 2024. 

Indian owners of offshore firms named in the Pandora Papers are - Anil Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Niira Radia, Gautam Singhania, and Lalit Goyal, among others.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has begun the investigation into all Indian owners of offshore firms named in the Pandora Papers. Some of the key aspects of the probe agency's investigation include recording of statements, seizing assets, searching premises, and getting details from Income Tax and Reserve Bank of India (RBI), a report by the Indian Express said.

According to the report, the Indian owners of offshore firms named in the Pandora Papers are - Anil Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Niira Radia, Gautam Singhania, and Lalit Goyal, among others.

Here's a list of Indians named in the ED probe:
Anil Ambani
The Pandora Papers allege that the chairman of the ADA group Anil Ambani and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies in Jersey, British Virgin islands, and Cyprus. The companies were reportedly set up between 2007 and 2010, during which at least seven of these companies borrowed and invested at least 1.3 billion dollars. According to the report by the Indian Express, the ED has sought details on all entities and summoned Anil Ambani and his wife Tina under the provisions of FEMA. The probe agency had recorded their statements in Mumbai.

As per the Pandora files, batting legend Sachin Tendulkar and his family members were beneficial owners of a BVI company, Saas International Limited. The Pandora records claim the Tendulkar family listed as PEPs (Politically Exposed Persons) as Sachin was also an ex-MP. Now, the ED has invoked FEMA and sent a communication to IT to get ITR details and an Egmont request has also been sent to the financial intelligence unit of the BVI, the report said.

Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty
The Pandora files alleged that businessman Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty was detained in Bengaluru in 2020 for non-payment of loans to several banks. Reportedly, he had also set up a complex offshore company network in Jersey and BVI.

The ED recorded Shetty's and his top executives' statements in December 2022, and alleged FEMA violations to the tune of ₹1,22.49 crore, the India Express report said.

Gautam Singhania
Raymond chairman and managing director Gautam Singhania allegedly acquired two companies in the BVI in 2008 - Deras Worldwide Corporation and Lyndonville Holdings Limited - the Pandora files said. According to the papers, Singhania is the beneficial owner at the Deras company with the purpose of acquisition shown as “to hold an account with UBS, Zurich”, while his father Vijaypat Singhania and Gautam are shown as shareholders in the other company.

According to the IE report, the ED has sent an Egmont request to the BVI and RBI. They have also asked IT if any cases under the black money act are pending against the Singhania family.

Harish Salve
Former solicitor-general of India Harish Salve acquired the Marsul Company in the BVI in 2015 to own a property in London, as per Pandora Papers. According to the English daily report, an Egmont request has been made with FIU-BVI. Requests have also been made with IT authorities for details of his returns for Marsul, the report added.

Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan
Former DHFL promoters Kapil Wadhawan and his brother Dheeraj Wadhawan - who are already facing a multi-crore loan bank scam of over ₹88,00 crore - are accused of having incorporated a string of offshore entities mostly in BVI and the Bahamas, the Pandora Papers revealed.

The ED has launched a probe into a money laundering case and also received replies to the Egmont requests sent to the BVI, UAE, Bahamas, and Switzerland, the report said.

Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh
According to the Pandora files, former Ranbaxy promoters Shivinder Singh and Malvinder Singh reportedly set up two offshore firms in the BVI in 2009. The Singh brothers were arrested in 2019 for mortgaging some properties of Forthill to borrow 5.1 million pounds from Barclays Bank.

According to the latest update, the ED has frozen Malvinder's bank account in Singapore where the “proceeds” were credited, reported IE. It added that the probe agency is also looking into Shivinder and his wife Aditi Singh's property which was allegedly transferred to conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar.

Niira Radia
The Pandora files revealed that Niira Radia reportedly incorporated about a dozen offshore entities, whose records have a slew of hefty financial transactions with emails showing she was a "do not contact" client. According to the report, the ED has seized data and sent it for analysis. The probe agency also recorded the statement of Radia’s sister, Karuna Menon.

Gaurav Burman
Gaurav Burman lent two million dollars to Bantree International Ltd, a BVI company, to its Mauritian subsidiary Colway Investments Ltd, the Pandora files claimed. Reportedly, the subsidiary was a shareholder in KPH Dream Cricket, owners of IPL team Kings XI Punjab.

The ED has received bank records from the KPH Dream Cricket Private Ltd that show payments to the tune of ₹4.67 crore made to a third party without having any tripartite agreement, the Indian Express reported.

John McMallum Marshall Shaw
According to the Pandora files, John McMallum Marshall Shaw, a UK citizen and husband of Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, owned 99 percent of the Mauritius-based Glentec International. The company set up the Deanstone Trust in New Zealand in 2015. Notably, John passed away in 2022.

Now, according to the report, the ED has initiated action under FEMA provisions, and issued inquiry letters to SEBI, IT and RBI which have been partially replied to. It has also sent Egmont requests to New Zealand and Mauritius.

What are the Pandora Papers?
The Pandora Papers refer to a collection of at least 12 million confidential files, revealing secret offshore financial dealings and alleged tax havens involving various world leaders, politicians, and public officials in 91 countries, including India. The data of the documents was first obtained and published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The documents were leaked in 2021, and were a follow-up of the Panama Papers.

Notably, the name ‘Pandora’ was given as a reference to the ancient myth of the Pandora's Box.


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