It was before she changed her name, evidently on the advice of her astrologers, and added another “i” to it. But Mossack Fonseca (MF) documents, investigated by The Indian Express, show her name simply as Nira Radia and establish that the PR professional whose telephone intercepts became public in 2010 managed an offshore account.
Radia’s telephones were intercepted by the Income Tax Department in 2008-2009 and the publication of snatches of thousands of conversations with politicians, journalists, and lobbyists created a furore. They set off a debate on how lines were blurred in the establishment, the social circles she tapped to lobby for her clients with several ministries of the UPA government.
Following “Radiagate,” several investigation agencies, including the Income Tax Department, commenced a probe into the corporate structure that she headed, led by her flagship company, Vaishnavi Communications, whose high-profile clients included Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and Ratan Tata’s communication arm, Tata Teleservices.
Five years later, nothing much is heard of the probes —- despite the fact that the apex court monitored the investigation of the Central Bureau of Investigation —- and officials who continue to work with Radia claim she was just the subject of a witch-hunt.
Tracking Radia and her companies, IT investigators explored leads in about 10 countries to trace her purported offshore assets and accounts. Nothing was heard on this — until the Mossack Fonseka papers.
An investigation of these papers shows the existence of one offshore entity owned by Radia, an International Business Company (IBC) registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by Mossack Fonseka in 1994 named Crownmart International Group Limited. There are resolutions until June 2004 which are signed by her.
Records show the company was struck off the MF registers in 2009 and in March 2012, there is a mention of the company printed in the Virgin islands Official Gazette by the BVI Financial Services Commission stating that the company would be struck off records should they not appoint a Registered Agent within 30 days.
In all, there are 232 documents on the company in the MF files. These include the company’s incorporation documents; the share certificates in the names of the directors, including Radia herself.
Radia is shown as a British citizen in these documents and, interestingly, it is publicly known that Radia had a company by the name of Crownmart International (India) pvt Ltd when in London which has been described as a “general business” enterprise set up by her.
Both the companies, it now turns out, were family enterprises with Radia herself being the primary shareholder.
Crownmart India was set up in 1992 and her father, Iqbal Narain Menon, had a 1% share in it.
In 1995, the company filed for bankruptcy showing its liabilities as 100,000 pounds. Radia’s three sons, Akshay, Akash and Karan, were also shareholders in Crownmart (India).
The BVI company, too, has Radia’s father as a shareholder and like her, he too is shown as a British citizen.
While Radia’s Delhi address (Vasant Vihar) is shown in the MF data; that of her father’s is shown as their property in Feroze Shah Road (Girdhar Apartments) in one place and in London in another.
He is shown to have resigned from the company in 1995 and she in 2004. What is significant is that in the year 1997 there is an increase of the authorized share capital of the company from the earlier 50,000 shares to 1,50,000 shares with 1,49,998 shown to have been bought by Niira Radia herself at the rate of $1 per share. She is shown to have given her consent to this resolution on telephone.
When contacted, Radia’s office sent this statement:
“It is correct that Ms Radia is UK citizen since birth and she still holds UK passport. Ms Radia is also Overseas Citizen of India since nearly 2006 (OCI). Before OCI, Ms Radia was PIO card holder since nearly 1998.
“Crownmart International Group Ltd. was a company owned and operated by Late Mr Iqbal Narain Menon, a British National (Ms Niira Radia’s father). Late Mr Menon was neither Indian resident nor Indian citizen. Subsequent to the demise of Ms Radia’s father in 2003, this company went into administration/ liquidation perhaps in 2007.
“It is pertinent to mention that because Ms Radia was/is not a beneficiary of the company and, hence, Ms Radia is not the right person to comment on your queries relating to this company specially when she does not have any access to the information / documents referred and relied upon by you. Further, some telephone approval of Ms Radia in 1997 as mentioned by you is almost 20 years old and Ms Radia does not recall any such thing.
“You would appreciate that taxation of any person in any jurisdiction of the world is personal, confidential and privileged matter and even tax authorities do not disclose such information to third parties. We would however like to inform you that Ms Radia had/has disclosed her assets to concerned tax authorities in UK / India as per applicable laws from time to time.”