In 2007, US media conglomerate Viacom entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Raghav Bahl’s Network 18 to set up Viacom 18 which, in turn, launched various subsidiary companies that were incorporated by Appleby in different tax havens, records show. The Network 18 Group saw a change of ownership in 2014 when Managing Director Bahl sold out through a debt vehicle to Reliance Industries which, through various firms, has a 75% holding in the company.
Appleby data reveal earlier links of the Network 18 Group to four offshore entities — three of which have been listed in balance sheets by the company as subsidiaries. Appleby records identify one subsidiary as Roptonal Ltd, registered in Cyprus and described in the annual report as a wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom 18. Another is shown as The Indian Film Company, also a wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom 18, registered in Guernsey.
SEE PHOTOS | Paradise Papers: Here are the Indians on the list
Appleby records show that Bahl, as Director, handled the affairs of the two other offshore companies and submitted applications with Appleby for their de-registration. The first application is for Network 18 Holdings Ltd which, on April 19, 2012 passed a special resolution. On April 30, 2012, another application was filed for the company in Cayman Islands, where it was registered in 2006, to be de-registered “by way of continuation” in Mauritius.
The profit and loss statement attached with the application from Appleby to the Registrar of Companies in Cayman Islands states that for the year ending 2011, the balance in accounts of Network 18 Holdings Ltd was $22.8 million. The applications and affidavits were signed by Bahl. The second company for which the de-registration process was undertaken by Bahl was Web 18 Holdings Ltd. This company, also registered in 2006, made a request to Appleby on September 18, 2012, for being taken off the registry of Cayman Islands and shifted “by way of continuation” to Cyprus.
EXPLAINED: Why the Paradise Papers matter
Response From Raghav Bahl:
The overseas companies mentioned by you were set up/ migrated in due compliance with applicable laws for undertaking international media operations of the Network18 Group. Due disclosures regarding set-up etc. of these companies were made by the Network18 Group in the financial statements of the relevant years. Also, do note that post the transfer of ownership of Network18 Group (July 2014), I am not associated with these companies in any manner.