The central government on Monday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for a multi-agency group to be constituted to investigate the Panama Papers leak. The group will include representatives of the Reserve Bank of India, Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.
The statement added that the group will monitor the flow of information in each one of the cases related to India, and the government will "take all necessary actions as required to get maximum information from all sources, including from foreign governments, to help in the investigation process". Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told ANI, "I welcome such investigations and exposes. More revelations are expected according to media reports...Whichever accounts are found unlawful, strict action will be taken against them."
A major leak of millions of documents from a Panama-based law firm revealed the hidden offshsore wealth of some of the world's top leaders and celebrities, including 500 Indians, The Indian Express reported. The list includes Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Indiabulls owner Sameer Gehlaut, DLF CEO KP Singh and business tycoon Gautam Adani's elder brother Vinod. Major international names include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his family, and Argentina footballer Lionel Messi. The documents were leaked by an anonymous source to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Following the revelations, tax authorities of Australia and New Zealand said they have started probing local clients in the list, reported Reuters. While the Australian Tax Office said it is investigating more than 800 wealthy clients of the company, New Zealand's tax agency said it is "working closely" with its tax treaty partners to find out more about its residents who may be used the firm's services to hide assets.
The 11.5 million files leaked from the database of Panama firm Mossack Fonseca also disclosed the hidden assets of six members of the House of Lords, three former Conservative MPs and dozens of donors to United Kingdom political parties, as well as that of families of eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body, the Politburo.
According to The Indian Express, several of the Indians named paid the firm to set up offshore business in the world's various tax havens. This is particularly bad news for the Indians incriminated as they are not allowed to do so by law. The report claims that some bypassed laws by claiming "companies acquired are not the same as companies incorporated". Others, the report claims, earned money abroad and kept it in tax-friendly countries rather than remitting it to India. Some even kept accounts in these countries to store bribes or payoffs, or proceeds from illegal property transactions.Mossack Fonseca, which was established in 1977, sells anonymous offshore companies around the world to help people cover up their business dealings. It also administers these firms for a yearly fee, besides managing wealth for companies. The information covers a period of nearly 40 years, from 1977 till December 2015.
A total of 370 reporters from 100 media organisations have analysed and verified the documents over the past year, reported The Guardian. However, the company said it complied with anti-money-laundering laws and carried out thorough due diligence on all its clients. Following the revelation, the Australian Tax Office said it is investigating more than 800 wealthy local clients of Mossack Fonseca, reported Reuters.
"Currently we have identified over 800 individual taxpayers and we have now linked over 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong," the company said in a statement, though it did not mention the name of the company. The firm's director, Ramon Fonseca, said the leak was "an international campaign against privacy".