Satya Prakash Gupta
Overseas entity: Sterling Global Partners Limited
Location: Ras Al Khaimah (UAE)
Delhi businessman Satya Prakash Gupta set up Sterling Global Partners Limited in August 2015 through financial service providers Anglo Manx Trust Company Limited and Mossack Fonseca (MF) in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In Delhi, Gupta runs M/s Sterling Security System, “a service providing company for creating business opportunities in India for multinational companies worldwide”, and M/s Sterling Exports. He is also the president of GT Karnal Road CETP Society.
Before setting up the UAE company, Mossack Fonseca records show, the 67-year-old Gupta took up a “full-time job” as Global Head (Marketing and Business Development) with M/s NextGen General Trading LLC (Dubai) in March 2015. His two-year contract from April 1 mentions an annual salary of $100,000 plus performance bonus, and annual travel and business reimbursement up to $1 million.
Soon after setting up Sterling Global Partners Limited in the UAE, records show, Gupta booked a business centre room — Henry VII — for himself in London’s St James’ Court, a Taj hotel, for three years from October 2015 at a “discounted rate” of GBP 1,000 per month.
Earlier, in July 2015, Anglo Manx Trust rushed MF, saying that the client (Gupta) “would like to incorporate as soon as possible” and they “basically just need a name that starts with Sterling or Platinum”.
During the “due diligence process”, Anglo Manx Trust said on August 3 that the “activities of the company will be general trading” and its shareholder would be Grosvenor Nominees Limited of Isle of Man. Copies of the passports of the first directors — British citizens Christopher Smith and Joanne Thompson — provided by Anglo Manx Trust were attached.
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Declaring that she would also be the first secretary herself, Joanne Thompson said that the “beneficial owner is Mr Satya Parkash Gupta, H-3/1 Part III, Model Town, Delhi, India. Date of Birth 09/12/1948”. A copy of his passport was attached as proof of identity, the records show.
Sterling Global Partners Limited was set up on August 17, 2015, with a capital of US $100 divided into 100 shares. The company’s registry documents were sent to Dubai-based consultancy firm AbiliTrade.
In November 2015, Anglo Manx Trust sought some referrals from Mossack Fonseca for opening a bank account for Sterling Global in Dubai. They said that they were applying to Barclays UK for a London bank account and “have been advised that Barclays require a minimum turnover of $ 1 billion”.
In December, the shares of Sterling Global were to change hands for the third time. “We will also need to change the shareholding again to the beneficial owner which may be travelling to Dubai in the next week or two,” wrote Thompson.
RESPONSE: In an email, Gupta wrote: “It is correct that I am the beneficiary owner and share holder of Sterling Global Partners Limited set up at Ras Al Khaima (UAE). There are no assets in the company. As there is no acquisition of assets in the company, the question of any source for their acquisition does not arise. We render advisory services for various projects, technologies, commodities, metals and hydrocarbons globally…
“Being an NRI, to my understanding,
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I am not required to inform Reserve Bank of India. Regarding Income Tax authorities, I informed them regarding my status as NRI at the designated office. There are no bank accounts in Dubai of the company. However, we have opened a bank account in London for functioning of regular business.
— Jay Mazoomdaar/New Delhi
Offshore entity: Amaya Limited
Art diva opened Seychelles company to hold ‘asset in Switzerland’
In a 2013 interview to Sotheby’s magazine, art collector Amrita Jhaveri, speaking on her Amaya Collection, said the word in Sanskrit means without illusion. Mossack Fonseca documents show that Amaya Limited was the company she set up in Seychelles in 2005, primarily to “hold asset in Switzerland”.
The company was set up as A M Art India Private Limited on July 25, 2005 through HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA as client. Jhaveri had the power of attorney and Mossack Fonseca, as the registered agent, provided office bearers. The company issued a bearer share for 5,000 shares at $ 1 each to Jhaveri. It was renamed Amaya Limited on December 8, 2005.
For eight years, interaction between Mossack Fonseca and company administrators was mostly limited to occasional complaints about receiving bulky art catalogues. But it all changed after the Seychelles International Business Companies Act 1994 was amended in November 2013, necessitating change of bearer shares to registered shares and publication of an annual report from 2014 onward.
Told about the new legal requirements, an HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) executive wrote back to Mossack Fonseca in April 2014: “Until we have this subject clarified, we cannot go to our customers to ask for signature of the Indemnity letter as we will need to explain what type of financial records you need. As we only have holding companies for account held in Switzerland, they do not have financial statements. Once you know what type of information is acceptable, kindly let us know?”
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In August 2014, documents show, Mossack Fonseca clarified that Amaya required to share details of the company’s activities, names of the countries where these activities were taking place, and a certified copy of Jhaveri’s passport as identity and address proof of the shareholder.
On September 5, 2014, the bearer share issued in 2005 was cancelled and all 5,000 shares were transferred to Jhaveri as resident of 27 Sadhana, Gamadia Road, Mumbai 26. The same day, Amaya indemnified Mossack Fonseca for providing office bearers, and authorised them to furnish company records if requested by the Seychelles Revenue Commission to meet an obligation under a tax treaty or by the Financial Intelligence Authority under the Money Laundering Act.
On January 26, 2015, Axel-Charles Stern, Managing Director, HSBC Private Bank (Suisse), asked Mossack Fonseca to “put it (Amaya) in ‘Struck Off’ status”. In response, Mossack Fonseca advised that if the company was not legally dissolved, it would continue to be active and have legal liabilities until the period for the last paid licence expired, which, in Amaya’s case, would be December 31, 2016.
“It is the duty of the Registered Agent,” Mossack Fonseca said, “to obtain and keep on its file all the pertinent documents for up to 5 years after the termination of the business relationship… Finally, if company is not formally dissolved, before closing the company file in our internal controls, our nominee directors shall revoke any enduring powers issued by them and shall declare that all registers and accounting records are kept at your address”.
On February 5, 2015, Stern confirmed that “the company needs to be ‘struck off’ as the dissolution process in Seychelles is difficult”.
Mossack Fonseca asked Stern to provide pending information on the last activity or purpose of the company and where it was carried out.
“The main activity is to hold asset in Switzerland, with some commercial activities (purchases and sales of paintings),” Stern replied.
Mossack Fonseca removed Amaya Ltd from its internal records and revoked the power of attorney issued to Jhaveri.
RESPONSE: Amrita Jhaveri did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls since March 16. Jhaveri Contemporary’s Mumbai office claimed they received the email only on April 6 and passed on the queries to Jhaveri, who was in London.
-Jay Mazoomdaar/ New Delhi
Overseas entity: Walker Foundation
Gargi Barooah, daughter-in-law of the late Dr Hemendra Prasad Barooah, Padma Shri and the grand old man of Assam’s tea industry, was the sole beneficiary of Walker Foundation set up in Panama in April 2010. Gargi moved to the US with her minor daughter in 2010.
Both Gargi and her daughter are shareholders in BA Industries, the family group of companies that controls more than half a dozen tea gardens in Assam. Gargi has also served as a non-executive director in B&A Packaging India Ltd and B&A Multiwall Packaging Ltd since February 2008.
Through Mossack Fonseca, Uruguay firm CHT Asesores y Consultores set up Walker Foundation in Panama on April 8, 2010, and Walker Investments Management INC in the British Virgin Islands on April 15, 2010. One Mark Cassidy, a British citizen with a California address, was the Protector of the Panama foundation and the sole director of the BVI company. Gargi Barooah was the sole beneficiary of the foundation, and one Rory Mark Keegan, a British citizen with an Italy address, held all 50,000 shares at $1 each in the company, Mossack Fonseca records show.
Walker Foundation was set up with assets not less than $10,000 which “consisted of funds deposited in Hordeñana y Asociados Sociedad de Bolsa SA”. The Uruguayan firm is controlled by financial consultant Gonzalo Carlos Hordeñana. Hordeñana is also the founding partner of Baker Tilly Uruguay, a member of Baker Tilly International, a global network of accountancy and business advisory firms.
Sometime in 2012, records show, Barooah stopped responding, and Baker Tilly Uruguay told Mossack Fonseca that all office bearers and the registered agent of Walker Foundation would have to find a way to resign independently since it was unclear if the client wanted to continue or dissolve the foundation. Walker Investments Management INC (BVI) too was inactivated on October 31, 2012.
RESPONSE: Barooah did not respond to multiple emails.
— Jay Mazoomdaar/New Delhi
Ankita Sehgal & Nimitt Rai Tiwari
Overseas entity: Suncell Holding SA
Location: British Virgin Islands
Nimitt Rai Tiwari and Ankita Sehgal, husband and wife, together owned Suncell Holding SA incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on September 16, 2011. From the day the company was formed, show Mossack Fonseca documents, they held 25,000 shares each in Suncell Holding — which issued a power of attorney to Nimitt on September 29, 2011. The two married in November 2011.
The couple are directors in Damodar Sunidhi Ventures Pvt Ltd, a Delhi company incorporated in 2013. They were also directors in another Delhi company — Xclucity Business Solutions Pvt Ltd set up in 2010 — which is now defunct. Ankita Sehgal owns and runs M/s Trade Intex, a “wholesaler/distributor/supplier of iron ore” in Delhi.
In an internal communication in November 2013, the company’s administrator Maurice Taylor, a Geneva-based firm, described the activities of Suncell Holding and where it was taking place to its registered agent Mossack Fonseca. “The company trades iron ore and the activity takes place in China mainly,” the email said.
In June 2014, Suncell Holding SA proposed to change its name to Sinostar Minerals Ltd, but the name was not available at the registry. The move was eventually dropped in August 2014. The company was inactivated on April 30, 2015.
RESPONSE: Ankita Sehgal did not respond to multiple emails.
— Jay Mazoomdaar/New Delhi
Offshore entity: SVS Investment Inc
Commerce graduate Bhaskaran Raveendran, 51, who belongs to Thiruvananthapuram, went to Russia in 1991, where he worked for 20 years as a consultant for a commodity firm, dealing mainly with coffee. He then spent three years in Vietnam as a consultant for a cashew business, before returning to Thiruvananthapuram in 2013.
Mossack Fonseca records show that Bhaskaran has been associated with SVS Investment Inc as a power of attorney holder and to act as a manager and facilitator. He thus did not incorporate the offshore company, and was not a director. The company was registered in August 2006, and was “inactivated” in January 2014. The directors of the company are Russian nationals. The MF papers contain details of resolutions passed at two meetings — on November 10 and November 17, 2008 — where a power of attorney in his name was signed.
Incidentally, one of the meetings of the directors was held at his residence in Kerala.
RESPONSE: Asked about the offshore company SVS Investment Inc, Bhaskaran said: “I have no such company. I have not invested in a firm in Russia. I am wondering how my name has figured in this list. I am a taxpayer and haven’t got any alert from the Income-Tax Department regarding any offshore investment. While working in Russia, I had invested in stocks, which was withdrawn when I left that country.”
— SHAJU PHILIP/ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
Responding to the report ‘Diamond dealers are tax haven’s best friends’, published in The Indian Express dated April 6, 2016, Harshad Mehta of the Rosy Blue conglomerate has written:
“I have been a non-resident (under applicable provisions of FEMA and Indian IT Act) at the time when I, either incorporated, acquired or participated in these companies. These companies were operating companies and the structures are all according to globally accepted and followed corporate holding structures. The locations are typically chosen for ease of incorporation, established legal systems and succession clarity.
Being a non-resident based in the UAE, tax avoidance was not a requirement for me nor was it my intention to establish companies in “tax haven” jurisdictions such as the BVI for tax avoidance, as erroneously implied.
I have already passed on the operations baton to my son Rihen. In the mid-2000s, when Rihen became a non-resident Indian, shareholding of certain companies were transferred to Rihen and he was appointed a director in my stead. This was all a part of prudent succession planning and nothing out of place.
Rosy Blue FZE was an operating company based out of Dubai had participated in a company carrying out a legitimate business activity. I understand that it is for this reason that certain offshore entities were tagged to “client — rosy blue FZE”. FYI: I also clarify that since 2014, I am no longer part of any of the Rosy Blue Companies.
Also I must stress that there is no participation or ownership by a resident Indian in any of the referenced offshore entities.
You have also mentioned about certain internal communication concerning my brother Dilip. You are fully aware that Dilip was never investigated in India and there are no cases pending against him in any matter in India.
I am responding to only some of the key observations from the article and inference may not be taken that all other points carried in the article are accepted.”