$600-mn trail to RIL in maze of 14 accounts

When asked RIL said: “Neither RIL nor Mr Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate bank accounts anywhere in the world.”

Written by Appu Esthose Suresh | Abuja/ New Delhi, | Updated: February 10, 2015 7:40 am
black money, black money list, india black money list, swissleaks, An Indian Express Investigation in collaboration with Le Monde and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Documents related to the HSBC account holders lend an insight into the $601-million (Rs 3,726 crore) held through companies, officials and associates of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).

While there is no clarity on the ultimate beneficial owners, an analysis of 14 HSBC bank accounts, which in turn are held by 14 offshore entities, show that these accounts are linked to RIL. These companies are interlinked through inter-corporate ownership and common officials.

When The Indian Express sought a comment from RIL on the ownership of these companies, directly or indirectly through intermediaries or RIL officials, a spokesperson for RIL said: “Neither RIL nor Mr Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate bank accounts anywhere in the world.”

ril_embedBut bank data shows that a majority of these entities opened HSBC accounts a few months before the division of the erstwhile Reliance empire between the two brothers — Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani — on June 18, 2005.

The first account was opened in 2001 in the name of Canbar Holdings Corporation, registered in British Virgin Islands, whose beneficial owners were Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani. Canbar had $5.5 million (Rs 34.65 crore). There was another company which had listed the brothers as beneficial owners: the Bermuda-registered Flag Telecom Pvt Ltd which had a balance $21.1 million (Rs 132.93 crore). It opened its account in January 2005.

The first in the series of accounts that can be clustered together under Mukesh Ambani-led RIL was opened on February 2, 2004 — Infrastructure Company Ltd. The Monaco-registered company had the largest account: $400 million (Rs 2,520 crore).

The three officials linked to Infrastructure Company Ltd are Chimanlal Jivandas Damani, James and Cathy Walfenzao.

The HSBC data shows this is also the link to the cluster of companies. James Walfenzao is president of The Corpag Group, a fiduciary management expert which specialises in setting up trusts and tax-exempt vehicles in offshore jurisdictions. The registered address of Infrastructure Company Ltd in Monaco is the offshore office of Corpag — 31, Avenue Princesse Grace, 1st floor, Monaco-98000.

According to HSBC documents, all offshore companies which form part of the RIL offshore corporate structure were set up by Walfenzao on April 13, 2005.

On February 2, 2004, half-an-hour after Infrastructure Company Ltd opened an account with HSBC, another account was opened: Motech Software Pvt Ltd, then headed by Sandeep Tandon, a former Indian Revenue Service officer who once probed Reliance and later became its chief liaison officer. Motech’s address with HSBC is the same as that of its registered address in Mumbai.

A week after Infrastructure Company Ltd and Motech Software opened their accounts, Motech was made beneficial owner of Infrastructure Company Ltd.

On May 15, 2006, Reliance Netherlands BV opened a bank account with $103 million. A day later, Reliance Industries Ltd opened an account and became the beneficial owner of Reliance Netherlands BV.

Three other offshore entities are connected to Motech and Reliance, and held substantial balance in 2007 — HRJ Holdings NV ($59 million), HRJ Holdings NV2 ($4.21 million) and Aberdeen Enterprises NV ($8.28 million). All three entities are registered in the Netherlands Antilles, an offshore destination.

Besides these three entities, there are other offshore entities that are part of the corporate loop that controls these accounts: Stayer Corporation, Tremaine NV, Bartow Holdings NV, Lasemo Holdings Inc, Antalis Management and Alloy International Ltd.

This second set of companies, which do not show any balance for 2006-07, are in turn beneficial holders of the previous set of companies which hold balance amounts. Stayer, Tremaine, Bartow are registered in the Netherlands, while Alloy and Antalis are registered in the British Virgin Islands and Lasemo in St Lucia.

The ultimate beneficial owners of these companies are not known but, according to documents maintained by HSBC, two names are common to these companies — James Walfenzao and Jairaj Sampat.

Jairaj Sampat is Managing Director of Reliance Global BV based out of the Netherlands.

In Canbar Holdings and Flag Telecom, senior RIL officials were listed as officials. In case of Canbar, where the beneficial owners are Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, Sandeep Tandon was listed as an official. Similarly, in Flag Telecom, PMS Prasad (now with RIL), Sandeep Tandon and Parminder Dost were listed as officials while Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani were listed as beneficial owners.

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