LODON: More than 300 Indians, including cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar and businessman Anil Ambani, have been named in the recently released Pandora Papers, Indian media outlets reported on Sunday.
The Indian Express, which is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) collaborative research, said the names of fugitive diamond tycoon Nirav Modi’s sister and pharma billionaire Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s husband are also included.
Of the 300-plus Indians included in the papers, the offshore holdings of 60 individuals and companies were investigated, the report said, adding that the details would be revealed in the coming days.
It noted that many Indians, including Tendulkar, re-organised their offshore assets following the 2016 Panama Papers investigation. “Evidently, Indian businessmen have been setting up a plethora of offshore trusts to project a degree of separation from their wealth and insulate their assets from creditors,” it further said.
“Individuals accused in economic offences and under investigation, have created an offshore network in tax havens like Samoa, Belize or the Cook Islands, besides larger tax havens like the British Virgin Islands or Panama,” the report said.
The list of names also includes people currently in jail, former lawmakers, a former tax commissioner, a former army officer of senior rank and a former law officer.
The Pandora Papers show that Sachin Tendulkar, his wife Anjali Tendulkar and father-in-law Anand Mehta were the beneficial owners of an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.
The company, Saas International Limited, was liquidated in 2016 following the Panama Papers expose, the report said. It remained operational from 2012 to 2016 when Tendulkar was a member of the Indian parliament.
Saas International Limited was liquidated three months after the Panama Papers investigation was made public. According to The Indian Express, “the average buyback price of shares of Saas International Limited is around $96,000. And as a resolution of the company dated August 10, 2007 (the day the company was formed) shows, 90 shares of the company were issued at the outset.
“Anjali Tendulkar got the first share certificate with 60 shares; her father got the second share certificate with 30 shares. While there are no details of buyback of the remaining shares, the value of 90 shares can be pegged at $8.6 million.”
Meanwhile, CEO and Director of the Sachin Tendulkar Foundation, Mrinmoy Mukherjee, told the Indian publication that the former cricketer’s investments were “made from his tax paid funds under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) and has been duly accounted for and declared in his tax returns”.
“We reiterate that the investment by Mr Tendulkar has been legitimately made through banking channels from India and has been declared to the income tax authorities,” the CEO stressed.
According to The Indian Express, business tycoon Anil Ambani — chairman of Reliance Communications — and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies in Jersey, British Virgin Islands and Cyprus.
Seven of these companies, which were set up between 2007 and 2010, have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion, according to the report.
“Records show that service providers which managed these companies put on record that seven of these received loans from banks which were ‘guaranteed by Reliance/Anil Ambani, in order to make investments … For those investments that have been realised, the monies were then, in turn, loaned out by the companies to other companies’.”
Ambani had gotten into a dispute with three Chinese state banks in 2020, following which he had told a London court that his net worth was zero, the publication said in the report.
The Pandora Papers also named a veteran Congress leader, former minister and friend of the Gandhi family, Satish Sharma.
At least 10 of Sharma’s family members, including his wife, children and grandchildren are among the beneficiaries of the Jan Zegers Trust — a declaration the late politician never made to the country’s election commission when he was filing his nomination papers, The Indian Express reported.
The Jan Zegers Trust was established in the Cayman Islands in 1995 when Sharma was the minister of petroleum and natural gas, according to the report. A second trust — JZ II Trust — was set up in 2015 when Sharma was a member of the Indian parliament.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson of biotechnology major Biocon Limited on Monday came out in defence of her husband John McCallum Marshall Shaw who has been named in Pandora papers. She said that her husband’s offshore trust was ‘bonafide and legitimate’ and accused media of ‘wrongly’ implicating it.
“Media stories reporting on Pandora Papers wrongly implicate my husband’s offshore trust, which is a bonafide, legitimate trust and is managed by Independent Trustees. No Indian resident holds “the key” to the trust as alleged in these stories,” Mazumdar-Shaw tweeted.