Paradise Papers

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif (center) interacts with the media in central London Nov. 1, 2017. A Pakistani court Oct. 26, 2017, issued arrest warrants for Sharif in two cases of corruption spiraling from the Panama Papers leak, his lawyers said. In India, a multi-agency group has been formed to investigate the Paradise Papers, which reveal offshore financial holdings, the government said. Nov. 6. (Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — A multi-agency group will investigate the Paradise Papers on offshore financial holdings, including a list 714 Indian individuals and entities, the government said Nov. 6.

The government also said that it had so far zeroed in on 147 actionable cases and 279 non-actionable cases relating to the previously published Panama Papers. 

"The government has directed that investigations in cases of Paradise Papers will be monitored through a reconstituted multi-agency group, headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman and including representatives from the CBDT, the Enforcement Directorate, the Reserve Bank of India and the Financial Intelligence Unit," a Finance Ministry release said here. 

According to official sources here, the MAG would be a reconstitution of the committee formed last April to investigate Indians named in the Panama Papers who were accused of stashing money in offshore entities to evade taxes.

The Panama Papers disclosures had also been made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

India ranks 19th among 180 countries whose citizens and companies parked their wealth in secretive tax havens abroad, according to a fresh global investigation whose first lot of revelations were published Nov. 6.

There are 714 Indians on the list, the Indian Express said in a front page banner story done as part of a worldwide ICIJ probe.

In a subsequent release Nov. 6, the government said the MAG on Panama Papers has submitted seven reports.

The Panama Papers contained brief particulars on 426 persons, "prima facie Indians or persons of Indian origin."

"The Income Tax Department conducted enquiries in all 426 cases through 395 references to 28 foreign jurisdictions. Based on the analysis of the information obtained and investigations, the outcome so far indicates 147 actionable cases and 279 non-actionable cases."

Of the 147 actionable cases, "investigations have led to the detection of undisclosed credits of about Rs. 792 crore so far," the Ministry said.

"Searches have been conducted in 35 cases and surveys done in 11 cases. In five cases, criminal prosecution complaints have been filed. In seven cases notices have been issued under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.

"Further investigation in all the above cases is in progress," it added.

The Paradise Papers revelations form a 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 many from India, move their money abroad.

"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 Indian Express said.

The newspaper said Nov.  6 that among Appleby's Indian clients were several prominent corporates and companies, which subsequently came under the scrutiny of investigating agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the ED.

These include firms in the Sun-TV-Aircel-Maxis case; the Essar-Loop 2G case; the SNS-Lavalin in which Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was named and then cleared; the Rajasthan ambulance scam recently routed to the CBI that 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 Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress chief Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.

Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha's name figures in the record because of his past association with the Omidyar Network. So does the name of R.K. Sinha, Bharatiya Janata Party's Rajya Sabha member, in the Malta offshore companies' list. Sinha and others have denied any wrongdoing in response to Indian Express queries. Sinha also tweeted Nov. 6 that full disclosure had been made to the authorities.

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