Their denials notwithstanding, former Union Minister in the UPA Government Preneet Kaur and members of her family are facing official scrutiny by tax authorities who say they are probing the link between her HSBC Geneva account and trusts and companies — as well as with properties allegedly owned by these entities in London and Dubai.
As reported in The Indian Express as part of the Swiss Leaks investigation (February 9, 2015), Kaur was among 1,195 Indians with HSBC Geneva bank accounts, details of 628 of which French authorities shared with their counterparts in India.
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There was, however, no account balance mentioned against her name.
In what has turned out to be a test case for how off-shore secrecy layers are unpeeled, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) first received the names of trusts linked to Kaur’s HSBC account from authorities in France. And then details of companies and properties linked to them from authorities in British Virgin Islands (BVI) where a trust was registered in the name of Preneet Kaur’s son, Raninder Singh.
The breakthrough for Indian tax authorities came with Kaur’s “BUP number” — this contains back-up files which can retrieve data — being sent to France (along with those of 574 others) and details of an entity named Jacaranda Trust being sent to New Delhi.
HSBC data obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and Le Monde and investigated by The Indian Express shows Jacaranda Trust to be one of dozens of entities linked with a company named Siltor Finance Limited which is linked with a clutch of companies in Switzerland, Greece and the BVI.
CBDT has now approached Swiss authorities for details of bank accounts maintained by Kaur and members of her family.
Sources said another account in HSBC Financial Services (Middle East) Limited in Dubai was also under scrutiny since it could be linked to the same family.
Sources said certified information received from France revealed that Preneet Kaur’s son, Raninder Singh, was the settler of Jacaranda Trust which was, in turn, the beneficial owner of several BVI-registered entities namely, Chillingham Holdings Limited; Limerlock International Limited, Mulwala Holdings Limited and Allworth Ventures Holding Limited. Documents received from France show that Raninder Singh’s “family members” were beneficiaries of the Jacaranda Trust.
While Preneet Kaur was earlier sent a notice by Income Tax authorities, she along with her husband, Congress Member of Parliament Amarinder Singh, have now been sent fresh notices. Amarinder Singh, officials said, has asked for time to send his replies.
While he did not respond to calls and text messages sent by The Indian Express, Preneet Kaur said: “I have said what I had to earlier on the subject of HSBC accounts and have nothing more to add. I know nothing about trusts and properties and have not been questioned about them.”
In February 2015, she had told The Indian Express: “I do not have any foreign bank account. If you say my name and date of birth match in the records, I do not know how those details have come up…”
Significantly, Raninder Singh has already been confronted with evidence gathered from France and BVI. Besides the companies linked with Jacaranda Trust, he has also been questioned about one Frangipani Trust and other entities linked to it, namely, the Landmark Fiduciary Company (NZ) Limited and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.
He has also been questioned about ownership of a property located at Trevor Street in London and one in Marina Mansion in Dubai.
To each of the detailed questions listed by IT authorities, Raninder Singh has denied any connection with the trusts, companies or properties. His written responses, accessed by The Indian Express, show that he has said: “I do not have any knowledge or interest in the alleged Jacaranda Trust or its pattern of holding in the companies mentioned…neither me nor my family members are associated with any of these concerns…neither me nor my family members are associated with any of these properties.”
IT officials said that following Raninder Singh’s denial, he has been sent another show cause notice for allegedly making a false statement.
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