Actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was on Monday summoned by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in connection with the Panama Papers case, reported NDTV. Unidentified officials told the news channel that the actor was questioned for five hours for alleged foreign exchange market violations.
In April 2016, several documents from the database of a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, were leaked. The documents revealed details about hidden offshore wealth of some of the world’s top leaders and celebrities. The list included 500 Indians, including Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Later in 2018, around 12 lakh new documents had emerged linking individuals or organisations to secret tax havens. At least 12,000 of this tranche of documents were linked to Indian citizens.
Besides Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the names of her father-in-law and actor Amitabh Bachchan, Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve, owner of PVR Cinemas Ajay Bijli, Chief Executive Officer of Hike Messenger Kavin Bharti Mittal, among others had figured in both the documents.
On Monday, unidentified officials said that the central agency recorded Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s statement on allegations that she had parked her money in a company based in the British Virgin Islands, a country which has lenient tax laws.
The Enforcement Directorate had started investigating the allegations related to Panama Papers leak in 2017. The agency had issued notices to the Bachchan family, asking them to explain foreign remittances made since 2004 under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme of the Reserve Bank of India.
Under the scheme, Indian citizens are allowed to remit up to $2,50,000 (about Rs 1.89 crore) every financial year for any current or capital account transaction. However, the scheme is not allowed for certain items, including for trading in foreign exchange abroad and purchase of lottery tickets and banned magazines.
Before Monday, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had been summoned by the central agency twice but on both occasions she had asked for more time to appear.
In 2016, the government had formed a to investigate the allegations.
On June 21, 2018, when the second set of papers were leaked, India’s finance ministry had said that law enforcement agencies were looking into the documents.
The ministry had said that a Multi-Agency Group formed in 2016, had investigated 426 clients from India and found that 353 cases were such against which no action can be taken. Among the rest, invasive action such as searches and surveys had been taken in 62 cases, leading to detection of nearly Rs 1,140 crore in undisclosed foreign investment.
Criminal complaints have been filed in courts in 16 such cases, which are at various stages of hearing, the finance ministry had said in 2018. In 32 of the cases cases, notices under Section 10 of the Black Money Act had been issued.