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Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan amongst 500 Indians named in Panama Papers; Modi calls for a multi- agency probe

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MUMBAI: In a shocking revelation, popular Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have been identified amongst 500 Indians with secret offshore accounts.

Apart from the Bachchans, several business tycoons and industrialists’ names have also come up in the list including DLF promoter K P Singh and Indiabulls promoter Sameer Gehlaut, family members of the promoters of Apollo Tyres and a number of politicians.

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, an Indian Express report read.

According to latest update on the development, PM Modi has welcomed this investigation that is being termed by the media as the ‘greatest leak’ so far. Taking matters into hand, the government has  ordered a multi-agency team to investigate the 500 Indians, who were named in the Panama Paper.

The team comprising of experts on tax and foreign exchange transactions, will work with financial crime-fighting agencies to investigate ‘the flow of information in each one of the cases.’

This revelation comes as part of a new data leak  from an anonymous source through German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung which was later shared globally by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). In India, one of the leading dailies, The Indian Express was a part of the investigation. Together the media groups have investigated a massive leak of 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama based law firm.    According to the records, the listed individuals who have paid the firm for a secretive, lax regulatory system that helped them to set up offshore entities in tax havens around the world.

‘Amitabh Bachchan was appointed director in at least four offshore shipping companies set up in 1993. Similarly, Aishwarya Rai and her family members were registered in 2005 as directors of Amic Partners Limited. Her status was later changed to share holder before the company was dissolved in 2008. DLF promoters KP Singh acquired a company registered in British Virgin Islands in 2010. His family’s three offshore entities hold almost $10 million,’ the report further stated.

While owning offshore funds by itself isn’t illegal, as per the Reserve Bank of India guidelines, citizens were not allowed to possess an overseas entity before 2003. The central bank allowed individuals to remit funds of up to $25,000 a year under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) a year later I 2004.

In 2013, individuals were allowed to set up subsidiaries or invest in joint ventures abroad under the Overseas Direct Investment window. But the newspaper's investigation claims that most of the offshore accounts set up by Indians identified in the list were done before 2013, which could render them illegal.

Not just individuals, a close scrutiny of The Panama Papers also reveals details of hitherto unknown deals, in some cases involving the government, too,” Indian Express further revealed in its investigative report.

Note: The information in this report has been sourced from The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Wire, and NDTV

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