The Congress dismissed BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s allegation that Rahul Gandhi declared himself a British national to float a firm in that country as false and said that “if somebody has committed an error while uploading, it can be corrected. It is correctable”. The Congress may have to do a lot of correction.
For, a search through UK’s Companies House records reveals three versions: there are some records relating to Rahul Gandhi’s company, Backops Limited, where he is shown to be a British national; there are some other records of the same company that show him as an Indian national. And there is a third record where he is shown as British but a handwritten change has been made — the word “British” has been scratched out and replaced by “Indian”.
Scrutiny of papers shows that in 2002, Gandhi set up an engineering design outsourcing company called Backops in Mumbai. And a few months later, he opened a related company in the UK. This company, Backops Limited, was registered at the UK Companies House on September 21, 2003. Gandhi was to serve as company’s director and secretary with one other director Ulrik McKnight, a US national.
The share allotment record signed by Gandhi shows that out of 100 shares valued at £1 each, Gandhi held 65 shares and McKnight had 35.
Swamy’s case rests on two annual returns in which Gandhi’s nationality was described as “British”. The first return was filed on October 10, 2005 and the second annual return was filed on October 31, 2006. Both these documents identify Gandhi as a “British” national.
In the first return, Gandhi’s address is given as 2 Frognal Way, London NW3 6XE, a plush London neighbourhood close to Hampstead. Then Gandhi filed another document changing his address to 51 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9EH, which is also the address of his co-director McKnight.
In 2004, the company’s turnover was £65,380, showing a net profit of £6,034. In the year 2005, it had a turnover of £38,462 and a net profit of £8,066. In 2006, the company submitted abbreviated accounts because being a small company, it was allowed not to file detailed profit and loss statement.
However, in the original Certificate of Incorporation, dated August 21, 2003, his nationality is shown as Indian. This document was electronically filed by Gandhi’s agent Damian Wardingly of Bourse Company Services, Bristol.
There is another scanned and hand-filled document, which is signed and amended by Gandhi’s co-director McKnight. In this document, originally filed in July 2004, Gandhi’s nationality is typed as British. It is then hand-amended by McKnight to “Indian,” on October 8, 2004.
The Companies House was not available to comment on the discrepancies found in the records of a company that was dissolved in 2009. “Hiding details about the nationality of directors is a fraudulent activity, most probably punishable by a fine”, said Raj Ruparelia, Principal at Bassetts Chartered Accountants. “Though there are no obvious tax advantages either for the British or Indian company directors. Perhaps some prospective investors and shareholders might be more inclined to invest in a company that is owned by the British directors. But there is evidence here that one of the directors was aware of this discrepancy and was trying to amend it,” he said.
Company formation in the UK is very quick now. All information, including director’s details, are filed electronically and documents could be downloaded within minutes. You do not need to sign any documents manually. Sometimes, as in this case, the registration is done through an agent. Most companies also file their returns through their accountants. “Ideally a client should thoroughly check all the documents filed on their behalf, but my experience suggests in many cases this doesn’t happen”, says Ruparelia.