In 2016, 11.5 million documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama, exposed the offshore financial links of a number of individuals and organisations. It came to light how the global elite, over 500 of them Indians, parked their money in offshore companies and even move from one secret tax haven to another. Two years down the line, the Panama Papers are back to haunt more individuals and organisations as new details have emerged with more than 1.2 million fresh documents being leaked.
At least 12,000 of these documents are linked to Indians, according to The Indian Express, which is investigation them in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Munich-based German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.
The second round of the expose, titled Panama Papers: The Aftermath, confirms the existence of several Indian entities, all clients of Mossack Fonseca, who had until now denied any links.
Internal emails prove how Mossack Fonseca scrambled to respond to an unprecedented global crackdown after the 2016 expose, revealing the financial trail of its new clients in the process.
The new names figuring in the reports published by The Indian Express on 21 June include PVR Cinemas owner Ajay Bijli and members of his family; industrialist Sunil Mittal’s son and Hike Messenger CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal; and Jalaj Ashwin Dani, son of Asian Paints promoter Ashwin Dani, among others.
In 2016, when offshore links of a number of Indian companies and individuals were unearthed, the Bijli family was already on the client list of Mossack Fonseca. According to IE, Ajay Bijli, his wife Selena and son Aamer set up an offshore company, Chesterfield Mayfair Holdings Limited in May 2005, to hold a property in the United Kingdom.
According to the latest leaks, the Bijlis held two more offshore companies through a trust and Delhi-based Priya Exhibitors Private Limited.
The new papers show Mossack Fonseca, after the 2016 leaks, sent notices to several companies set up by Indians to produce missing information including the name of the “Beneficial Owner”, according to The Indian Express reports.
The law firm then served 90-day notices on the clients, who failed to meet the legal requirements, saying it would cease to be their ‘registered agent’.
Companies and individuals with links to offshore entities, which Mossack Fonseca confirmed in a series of messages, include Shiv Khemka, Amitabh Bachchan, Jehangir Sorabjee, K P Singh of the DLF Group and his immediate family, Anurag Kejriwal, Navin Mehra of Mehrasons Jewellers and Hajra Iqbal Memon and his family.
Shortly after the 2016 expose, the leaked documents show, Mossack Fonseca named Amitabh Bachchan as director of Lady Shipping Ltd and Treasure Shipping Ltd in its communications. Soon, a 90-day notice was served on him via UK-based Minerva Trust — the administrator for these two companies. Interestingly, the communication this time addressed the actor as the director of yet another firm, Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd, which it said did not meet “due diligence requirements”.
Bachchan, who was named in the 2016 Panama Papers leak too and is already under official scrutiny, did not respond to an email sent by The Indian Express.
The Panamanian law firm had earlier this year announced that it was shutting down, blaming the economic and reputational damage following the 2016 Panama Papers leak scandal.