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Many Indians linked to hidden dealings offshore, reveal Panama Papers

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Image Source: indianexpress.com

New Delhi: A new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 100 other news organisations around the globe reveal offshore links of some of the planet’s most prominent people, including over 500 from India.

“In terms of size, the Panama Papers is likely the biggest leak of inside information in history – more than 11.5 million documents – and it is equally likely to be one of the most explosive in the nature of its revelations,” the consortium said of its investigation published on Sunday.

In India, The Indian Express ran several pages of the investigation reports alleging among other names that bollywood superstarts Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai were directors in companies in Panama. The two did not immediately respond despite efforts to contact them. Rai’s media adviser told the newspaper that the information was false.

In 2004, India legally allowed investments abroad by companies, and later individuals, through the Liberalised Remittance Scheme.

Also named were Sameer Gehlaut of India Bulls, for properties owned in Bahamas, Jersey and the United Kingdom, and KP Singh of DLF about companies registered in British Virgin Islands. Vinod Adani, elder brother of Industrialist Gautam Adani and politican Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal of Loksatta Party were also alleged to have set up companies in tax havens. Bajoria told the paper that that “erroneous beneficial owner information” was given by mistake.

The Express said it had carried out the investigations spread over eight month with several global newspapers. Many of the other persons named in the Express reports responded, some denying while others maintaining that they had worked within the laws of the country.

According to the ICIJ, “the leak exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders (including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family members) and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies.”

The files contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist, an unfolding political money laundering affair in Brazil and bribery allegations convulsing FIFA, the body that governs international soccer, the consortium said.

They also provide details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 other politicians and public officials around the world and show how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

“The Panama Papers expose offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan.

They also include names of at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the US government because of evidence that they’ve done business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organisations like Hezbollah or rogue nations, including North Korea and Iran.

The leaked data, the ICIJ said, pertains to over nearly 40 years from the late 1970s through the end of 2015. It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world – providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues.

The leaked records – which were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from nearly 80 countries – come from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, that has branches in London, Beijing, Miami, Zurich and more than 35 other places around the globe.

The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets. The law firm’s leaked internal files contain information on 214,000 offshore companies connected to people in 200 countries and territories.

The data includes emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records revealing the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong to the British Virgin Islands.

It is the largest cross-border media collaboration ever undertaken. Journalists working in more than 25 languages dug into Mossack Fonseca’s inner affairs and traced the secret dealings of the law firm’s customers around the world.

They shared information and hunted down leads generated by the leaked files using corporate filings, property records, financial disclosures, court documents and interviews with money laudering experts and law-enforcement officials.

Most of the services the offshore industry provides can be used for legal purpose and are by law-abiding customers.

But the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption.

The files show that these fixers and middlemen protect themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions. In some instances, they work to head off official investigations by backdating and destroying documents.

The Panama Papers make it clear that major banks are big drivers behind the creation of hard-to-trace companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other offshore havens. The files list more than 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who wanted to keep their finances under wraps, including hundreds created by international giants UBS and HSBC.

The disclosures from the law firm’s leaked files dramatically expand on previous leaks of offshore records that ICIJ and its reporting partners have revealed in the past four years.

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Paradise Papers: Biggest Financial Leak exposes 714 Indian Links, Amitabh Bachchan also on the list

According to the Express, this cache of 13.4 million documents named "Paradise Papers" tumbled out 18 months after Panama Papers: both sets of data were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.

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Paradise papers
India ranks 19th among 180 countries whose citizens and companies sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens abroad. The list also includes names of individuals like Amitabh Bachchan. IANS

New Delhi, November 6, 2017 : India ranks 19th among 180 countries whose citizens and companies sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens abroad, according to a fresh global investigation, the Paradise Papers, whose first lot of revelations were published on Monday.

“In all, there are 714 Indians in the tally,” said the Indian Express in a front-page banner story done as part of a world-wide probe carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“Interestingly, it is an Indian company, Sun Group, founded by Nand Lal Khemka, that figures as Appleby’s second largest client internationally, with as many as 118 different offshore entities,” the Express added.
The revelations in the Paradise Papers form part of the largest ever leak of financial data involving two companies, Bermuda’s Appleby and Singapore’s Asiaciti, which helped the global rich and powerful, including from India, to move their money abroad.
The Express said that among Appleby’s Indian clients were several prominent corporates and companies which subsequently came under the scrutiny of investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (EF).
These include firms in the Sun-TV-Aircel-Maxis case; Essar-Loop 2G case; SNS-Lavalin in which Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was named and then cleared; the Rajasthan ambulance scam which has recently been routed to the CBI and which names a company called Ziquista Healthcare (Sachin Pilot and Karti Chidambaram were early honorary/independent directors of the firms respectively); and fresh financial links in a CBI case against YSR Congress chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Express sai
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha’s name figures in the record because of his past association with Omidyar Network, so does the name of R.K. Sinha, BJP Rajya Sabha member of Parliament, in Malta offshore companies’ list. Sinha and others had denied any wrongdoing in response to Express queries. Sinha also sent tweets on Monday saying full disclosure had been made to the authorities.
 secretive tax havens abroad,
“Besides corporates, the data revealed details of individuals as well; Amitabh Bachchan’s shareholding in a Bermuda company acquired before the 2004 Liberalised Remittance Scheme kicked in; corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and film star Sanjay Dutt’s wife who figures under her former name Dilnashin,” the daily said.
According to the Express, this cache of 13.4 million documents named “Paradise Papers” tumbled out 18 months after Panama Papers: both sets of data were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.
In India, as it did with Panama Papers, the Express investigated these records – involving Indians and Indian entities — for over 10 months to come up with the India findings which it said will be published in over 40 investigative reports beginning on Monday. (IANS)

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Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif Indicted on Corruption Charges

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Muhammad Safdar
Muhammad Safdar, husband of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of ousted Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, waves from a a vehicle as he arrives at an accountability court in Islamabad. VOA

Islamabad, October 19: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been indicted on corruption charges stemming from information taken from the so-called “Panama Papers.”

The country’s anti-corruption court indicted the 67-year-old Sharif during a hearing Thursday in Islamabad. His daughter Maryam and son-in-law Mohammed Safdar were also indicted. Maryam Sharif and Mohammed Safdar appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A lawyer for the elder Sharif, who is in London with his wife as she undergoes cancer treatment, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Maryam Sharif angrily dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”

Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and removed from office in July after leaked documents last year from a Panama-based law firm revealed the family held a number of unreported overseas assets.(VOA)

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Journalist Behind the Panama Papers Killed in a Car Bomb

Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a "one-woman WikiLeaks".

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Panama papers
Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device. (Representative image) Pixabay

Valletta, October 17, 2017 : A journalist who led the Panama Papers probe into corruption in Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her residence, the media reported.

Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device, reports the Guardian.

A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”.

Her latest revelations accused Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, the Guardian reported.

Malta’s President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, called for calm. “In these moments, when the country is shocked by such a vicious attack, I call on everyone to measure their words, to not pass judgement and to show solidarity.”

ALSO READ Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption

In a statement, Muscat condemned the “barbaric attack”.

“Everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine,” said Muscat, adding “Both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way.”

He announced in parliament later on Monday that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers were on their way to Malta to assist with the investigation, following his request for help from the US government.

According to local media reports, Caruana Galizia filed a police report 15 days ago to say that she had been receiving death threats.

The journalist posted her final blog on her Running Commentary website at 2.35 p.m. on Monday, and the explosion, which occurred near her home, was reported to police just after 3 p.m.

Over the last two years, her reporting had largely focused on revelations from the Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5 million documents leaked from the internal database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. (IANS)