AT LEAST 21 Indians who were investigated by The Indian Express in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) for their ties to offshore entities in tax havens are linked to high-end real estate in Dubai, according to a property database from UAE’s largest city.
The database was accessed by The Indian Express in partnership with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an international investigative reporting platform formed by 40 non-profit investigative centres, and journalists and regional organisations. The entries were investigated by around 50 media groups in as many countries.
Of the 129,000 entries in the Dubai database from 181 countries, those of Indians form a sizeable chunk with 5,800 linked to properties in top sites such as the Palm Jumeirah, The World, Motor City, Emirates Living, Dubai Marina, Old Town Island, etc.
According to Indian laws, it is not illegal for Indians to own property in Dubai. As per the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999, resident and non-resident Indians are allowed to own immovable properties abroad. Dubai does not bar foreigners from buying property in the country.
Between 2015 and 2017, The Indian Express and the ICIJ probed four sets of data leaks — Swiss Leaks, Offshore Leaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers — listing the names of thousands who had deposited money in opaque bank accounts in Switzerland, and used international law firms to establish offshore entities in tax havens such as Panama, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and Malta.
Some of these names now figure in the Dubai database. The Indian Express sent emails requesting comment to each of the 21 Indians to the IDs listed against their names in the Dubai database — only three responded.
Offshore firms, Dubai property
Ajay Bhagwandas Karani: Linked to an Emaar project. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder in Hurstfield Enterprises, and Sunrise Trading and Holdings Ltd, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Asgar Fakhruddin: Linked to two properties in Podium Towers and Greens & Views. Named in the Panama Papers as shareholder of Satrh Holdings Ltd in Seychelles.
Ashish Haresh Khubchandani: Linked to an Emaar project in Burj. Named in Offshore Leaks as director of Confianza Investments Ltd. Responding to an email from The Indian Express, Khubchandani wrote: “Me and my family are non-residents of India and are living in Dubai for the last 55 years.”
Darsan Jitendra Jhaveri: Linked to an Emaar project in Burj. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder and beneficiary of GBA Minmetals Trading Ltd in the BVI.
Gulnaz Mohsinally Rafik: Linked to two separate Emaar projects. Named in Panama Papers as a shareholder of GFK Investments Ltd in the BVI.
Kirati Keshavji and Deepak Jagjivan: Keshavji is linked to two properties and Jagjivan to three properties in a Union Properties project in Dubai Investments Park. They share an email in the Dubai database, and were named in Panama Papers as shareholders of Oceanview International Investments Ltd in Seychelles.
Kishan Lal Lawani: Linked to an Emaar project in Burj. Named in Offshore Leaks as shareholder in Asgard Properties Ltd.
Mannan Kapasi: Linked to a property in Greens & Views, an Emaar project. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder of Spruce Investments Group Ltd in the BVI.
Narendra Chitranjan Pandya and Sonali Narendra Pandya: Narendra is linked to two properties — in Mall Hotel and Lake Hotel. Sonali is linked to a property in Emirates Living. They were named in Offshore Leaks as directors of SN Overseas Inc.
Nitin Jagat Advani: Linked to an Emaar project in Burj. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder of Sureline Holdings Inc in the BVI.
Noohu Mohamed Ameer Fizel: Linked to an Emirates Living property. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder of Universal Investment and Holdings Inc in Seychelles.
Rahimtulla Siraj: Linked to a property in Greens & Views, an Emaar project. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder of S&Z Holding Incorporated in the BVI.
Rajesh Vrajlal Mehta: Linked to an Emaar project. Named in Swiss Leaks as one of six members of the family that owns Mohit Diamonds and is linked to approximately $16.23 million in three Antwerp-based companies — Yeel Investment, Euro Investment and Lexcor Investment — with accounts in HSBC. Responding to an email from The Indian Express, Mehta wrote: “I am a Non-Resident Indian for the last 46 years.”
Sunil Kumar Khimchand Gandhi: Linked to an Emaar project named Residences. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder of two Panama-based companies, Morton Enterprises Inc and Newbridge Holdings Inc. Responding to an email from The Indian Express, Gandhi wrote: “Whilst I may be holding an Indian passport, I am not born in India, and have never been resident in India, and have no business interests in India. Consequently, I have no reason to deal with the Indian authorities.”
Sunil Relwani and Anil Relwani: Linked to two properties in Cayan Tower. Named in Offshore Leaks as directors and shareholders of Luxury Real Estate Ltd in the BVI.
Tabrez Adam Karim: Linked to a property in Greens & Views, an Emaar project. Named in Panama Papers as shareholder of Wyn Developments Limited in the BVI.
Vikramjeet Singh Judge: Owns a property in Emirates Hill. Named in Panama Papers as shareholders of Papers Worldwide Ltd in the BVI.
Viramati B Karani: Linked to an Emaar project. Named in Offshore Leaks as director and shareholder of Lynley Ltd.