In February 2020, following a dispute with three Chinese state-controlled banks, Anil Ambani told a London court that his net worth was zero.
The court observed that “there are questions about the extent to which Mr Ambani has any offshore interests, because if so they have not been declared”.
Three months later, he was ordered to pay $716 million to the banks. But he did not, and denied having any asset or worthwhile beneficial interest in any entity worldwide.
Records in the Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express reveal that the chairman of Reliance ADA Group and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies in Jersey, British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Cyprus (see chart).
Set up between 2007 and 2010, seven of these companies have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion.
In Jersey, Anil Ambani owned three companies — Batiste Unlimited, Radium Unlimited and Hui Investment Unlimited — that were incorporated between December 2007 and January 2008.
Batiste Unlimited and Radium Unlimited are owned by Reliance Innoventures Pvt Ltd, the ultimate holding company of ADA Group. Hui Investment Unlimited is owned by AAA Enterprises Ltd (Reliance Inceptum Pvt Ltd since 2014), which is a promoter company of Reliance Capital.
Records also show that two other companies incorporated in Jersey in January 2008 — Summerhill Ltd and Dulwich Ltd — are owned by a “representative of Anil Ambani”, identified as Anup Dalal.
Dalal also owned a BVI company — Reindeer Holdings Ltd — which was used for investment management.
Three other Jersey companies linked to Anil Ambani and incorporated in January 2008 are: Laurence Mutual; Richard Equity Ltd and German Equity Limited, all beneficially owned by a lawyer in Geneva.
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.”
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Some key transactions, as investigated by The Indian Express:
· Batiste Unlimited and Radium Unlimited, records show, borrowed $500 million and $220 million respectively from ICICI to acquire CCPS (compulsory convertible preference shares) in AAA Corporation Pvt Ltd, an Ambani-linked real estate company in Mumbai.
· Dulwich borrowed $33 million from Rockcliffe Group Limited, UK, and invested this through a subscription agreement with a private fund based in Mauritius. Significantly, this fund sold a three per cent stake in Pipavav Shipyard, now Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Naval, in 2009-10.
· Summerhill Ltd bought 90% of a company identified as “GNPTL” – details not available so far — and transferred the shareholding to Reliance Globalcom BV, a company in the Netherlands.
· Laurence Mutual, Richard Equity Ltd and German Equity Limited together invested $47.5 million, borrowed from Barclays, in an entity identified as Adventis Funds. The investments, show records, were realised in March 2009 and “loaned out”.
In the British Virgin Islands, Anil Ambani owned Northern Atlantic Consultancy Services Group Unlimited and its two subsidiaries Northern Atlantic Trading Unlimited and Northern Atlantic Investments Unlimited. All three were set up in 2010.
The first two companies were liquidated by March 2018.
In BVI, Anil Ambani owned another company Trans-Pacific Holdings Pvt Ltd which was formed in March 2009. Its two subsidiaries Trans-Atlantic Holdings Pvt Ltd and Trans-Americas Holdings Pvt Ltd, were incorporated in 2009. Trans-Americas Holdings, records show, was active at least until 2017.
In June 2009, records show, an agreement was signed between Trans-Americas Holding (BVI) and three Cyprus companies for a loan of $500 million. Standard Chartered Bank, London, was the security trustee for this arrangement.
In this connection, another agreement was signed between Trans-Atlantic Holding and Trans-Americas Holding and the Anil Ambani Group’s ultimate holding company Reliance Innoventures Pvt Ltd.
Under this, Trans-Americas Holding had the right to call upon Reliance Innoventures “to subscribe for ordinary shares.”
The three Cyprus companies went into voluntary liquidation this year.
Asked about these offshore companies and transactions, a lawyer, on behalf of Anil Ambani, said: “Our client is a tax resident of India and has made disclosures to Indian authorities as required to be made in compliance with law. All required considerations were taken into account when making disclosures before the London court. The Reliance Group conducts business globally and for legitimate business and regulatory requirements, companies are incorporated in different jurisdictions.”
In May 2020, Anil Ambani was ordered to pay $716 million to the Chinese banks who are yet to initiate enforcement action due to a moratorium ordered by the Delhi High Court in State Bank of India’s insolvency proceedings against Anil Ambani.