Around 12 lakh new documents have emerged linking individuals or organisations to secret tax havens, with Indian personalities figuring in at least 12,000 of them. These are the findings of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, in collaboration with The Indian Express, in what is the second “leak” of Panama Papers-related documents since 2016.
The fresh investigation reveals how Mossack Fonseca, the firm at the heart of the first exposé, tried to respond to the allegations in 2016. In the process, it confirmed the existence of several customers, including Indian clients, who had earlier denied their links.
The new set of documents, known as Panama Papers: The Aftermath, highlights details of offshore companies incorporated by several Indian businessmen who did not figure in the 2016 leak. These include Ajay Bijli, owner of PVR Cinemas, and members of his family; Kavin Bharti Mittal, the chief executive officer of Hike Messenger and son of Sunil Mittal, and Jalaj Ashwin Dani, son of Asian Paints promoter Ashwin Dani, The Indian Express reported. The report says 426 clients from India are being investigated.
The new documents also show that Mossack Fonseca served notices to several offshore firms set up by Indians to produce missing information in 2016. These letters contained the names of the firm’s beneficial owners, or demanded that it be immediately disclosed.
Later, Mossack Fonseca served 90-day notices to clients informing them that the firm would resign as Registered Agent because the customers had failed to meet legal requirements. A series of messages from Mossack Fonseca accessed during the journalists’ investigation reveal the identities of Indians with links to offshore entities. The most prominent among these is actor Amitabh Bachchan, who has already been investigated. Others include SUN Group Vice Chairperson Shiv Khemka, KP Singh of the DLF Group and his immediate family, politician Anurag Kejriwal among others.
Mossack Fonseca named Amitabh Bachchan the director of two companies – Lady Shipping Ltd and Treasure Shipping Ltd – and then served the 90-day notice to him via UK-based Minerva Trust, the administrator for these companies. The notice named him as the director of a third company, Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd, from which Mossack Fonseca threatened to resign as registered agent.
Bachchan has denied any link to these companies and did not respond to an email from The Indian Express.