At a time when the government is making an effort to bring in blackmoney stashed in safe overseas havens back to the country, a new global list has emerged which also features big Indian names encompassing film stars, businessmen, politicians and underworld people.
A huge data leak from a law firm in Panama suggesting it hid billions of dollars in assets of global politicians, sports stars and entertainers threatened to dramatically boost the country's reputation as an offshore haven for money laundering.
According to a report in the Indian Express, more than 11 million documents from the secret files of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm headquartered in tax haven Panama, known for its factory-like production of offshore companies for its worldwide clientele of the well-heeled.
More than 500 Indians figure on the firm’s list of offshore companies, foundations and trusts, besides 234 Indian passports handed over by clients as part of the incorporation process.
The list has names of big personalities such as film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to corporates including DLF owner K P Singh and nine members of his family, and the promoters of Apollo Tyres and Indiabulls to Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod Adani. Two politicians who figure on the list are Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal, the former chief of the Delhi unit of Loksatta Party, the report said.
Further, the name of Mumbai ganglord the late Iqbal Mirchi was also part of the list, with the report also revealing details of hitherto unknown deals, in some cases involving the government, too.
Panama, a small nation of just four million people, has a booming financial services sector that, including revenue from its famous canal, accounts for nearly 80 percent of gross domestic product.
"Panama has become the most opaque place on earth," the director of the Center for Tax Policy in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Pascal Saint-Amans, told France's iTele network Sunday. The Tax Justice Network, an advocacy group, in December
said: "Panama thumbs its nose at transparency."
Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, ranks the country 72 out of 168 in the world (168 being the least transparent), with a pretty secretive financial system put at 14 out of 71 jurisdictions.
The new list comes after the HSBC's Swiss private banking arm revealed names of roughly 2,000 Indian account holders last year.
"Around 200 individuals in the list are from Mumbai alone, and 20% of them are non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the new list. The quantum of these accounts will be known by first week of September," a DNA report quoted a source.
The taxman had conducted a 'survey' operation in mid- February at the Mumbai head office of HSBC Bank in connection with the black money probe against it and certain Indians who held accounts in its Geneva branch.
With agency inputs