Updated: October 16, 2021 11:30:30 am
The Pandora Papers contain fresh leads for Indian investigation agencies probing the scam involving Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited (DHFL).
DHFL promoters Kapil Wadhawan and his brother Dheeraj Wadhawan were put behind bars last year and owe Indian banks more than Rs 88,000 crore. The Wadhawans are still in jail — Kapil Wadhawan had offered a settlement to lenders, saying his personal and family assets are worth Rs 43,000 crore.
But what the Wadhawans have not disclosed is that since 2006, they incorporated a string of offshore companies, via the Trident Trust (BVI), registered mostly in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands, and one in the Bahamas.
The flagship BVI entity of Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan is V&M Aviation and records investigated by The Indian Express show that the brothers were in business with the Trident Trust at least until February 2017.
A majority of payments/annual charges/agreements have been settled for the Trident Trust by Dubai-based Wadhawan International Investments. There are documents to show that at least one board meeting of V&M Aviation was held in Mumbai.
The Trident Trust papers on the DHFL promoters show that months after registering V&M Aviation in November 2006, the company entered into an agreement for the registration of a charge (loan) from Credit Suisse, Switzerland, for purchase of a Bombardier Challenger aircraft. The purchase agreement documents for V&M Aviation, filed in the BVI registry, state that the price of the aircraft was $22.65 million (Rs 170 crore).
E-mails exchanged between Trident Trust during 2015-2016 mention the purchase of the Bombardier aircraft and the fact that by this time, the charge and mortgage with Credit Suisse had been settled. A new Power of Attorney was also signed on February 9, 2017 through the Trident Trust, mentioning the Bombardier aircraft purchase.
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Records show that after purchasing the aircraft, through a mortgage with Credit Suisse using their offshore vehicles, all mortgages were paid and the directors of V&M Aviation had direct ownership of their “asset’’.
In the bouquet of offshore companies incorporated by the Wadhawans, records show V&M Aviation itself was registered in the BVI in July 2006 with 50,000 shares and Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan as directors. Two other firms were linked to them: Zarara Leisure Limited of BVI, Deblin International Limited, Bahamas.
The Bahamas company, incidentally, is also shown as the shareholder in the aircraft purchase agreement signed with Credit Suisse.
Records also reveal the pattern of cross-holdings between the offshore companies of the Wadhawans. In 2016, documents show, the shareholder of V&M Aviation was changed from Zarara Leisure Limited to another company called Future Max Holdings Ltd, registered in the Jebel Ali Free Zone in 2007.
The shareholder of this company is Excel Way Investment Limited, a BVI company with 50,000 shares and Kapil Wadhawan as its sole director. Later, in 2010, both Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan are shown as its shareholders with 5,000 shares each.
Yet another offshore BVI company with Wadhawans, also registered with the Trident Trust, is Team Fortune Investment Limited. It was registered in 2010 with Kapil Wadhawan as its first director.
Responding to queries from The Indian Express, Rohan Dakshini, lawyer for the Wadhawans, said: “My clients are presently in custody and are not in a position to answer any questions considering their circumstances right now.”
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