ON OCTOBER 17, 2016, six months after the Panama Papers and days after The Indian Express reported on several offshore firms linked to London-based arms agent Sudhir Choudhrie and his son Bhanu Choudhrie, a Mossack Fonseca employee raised the red flag, new data from the law firm reveals.
In an internal communication, the compliance officer linked the The Indian Express report to two of these entities set up in 2002 in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) — Anterna Ltd and Belinea Services Ltd — of which Bhanu was a director. Belinea was initially called Noversa Ltd.
The “compliance note” pointed out that both father and son were arrested in 2014, as part of a Serious Fraud Office probe in London for allegedly helping Rolls-Royce pay bribe to secure contracts in China and Indonesia.
In India, it noted, the Ministry of Defence also ordered a CBI inquiry into the purchase of aero engines by HAL from Rolls-Royce.
Ten days later, Mossack Fonseca decided to proceed with “immediate resignation” from Anterna and Belinea for “adverse findings and failure to provide DD when requested”. On October 27, 2016, the two entities were served a 90-day notice to change their registered agent.
The latest data shows that Mossack Fonseca’s UK office informed its BVI arm that Bhanu had resigned as director of Anterna on January 27, 2016, after all 50,000 shares were transferred in November 2015 from a Seychelles entity — Protype Services Inc — to Sumant Kapur, the son of Sudhir Choudhrie’s uncle B K Kapur.
On October 28, 2016, a day after Mossack Fonseca conveyed its intent to resign from Anterna, a communication on behalf of the client claimed that the Anterna’s records were “updated recently” and that Sumant Kapur was the ultimate beneficial owner. “I trust you can confirm that you now have all the (documents) necessary to stop your resignation,” the email said.
It remains unclear if Mossack Fonseca eventually resigned or continued to serve Anterna as its registered agent.
Incidentally, Sumant’s father B K Kapur is a former chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
For the other BVI firm linked to Bhanu, an internal communication on November 7, 2016, recorded the client’s confirmation that Belinea would be struck off the register.
Records show that Sumant Kapur, executive director of C&C Alpha Group set up in the UK by Bhanu as a family-owned private equity firm, was replaced by Dubai-based Aman Chopra as the beneficiary owner of Anterna in May 2010. But internal documents of Mossack Fonseca continued to list Kapur as holder of the company’s bearer shares in 2011.
Chopra was a director and shareholder of Prototype Services Inc, which had transferred all of its shares of Anterna to Kapur. In October 2016, The Indian Express reported that Chopra had joined Bhanu on the board of directors of Belinea in May 2010. Hollister Consulting Inc, one of four Seychelles firms linked to Chopra, was the sole shareholder of Belinea.
Arms agent Sudhir Choudhrie shifted base from Delhi to London in 2006 after his name featured in CBI probes into the contract to upgrade 130-mm field guns and the Barak missile deal. After Bhanu Choudhrie set up C&C Alpha Group in 2002, both Sudhir and his son became UK citizens.
In 2011, after the CBI gave a “clean chit” to Sudhir Choudhrie in the Rs 208-crore deal between Israeli firm Soltam and the Ministry of Defence, the Enforcement Directorate commenced a probe into financial transactions of the deal but did not find any evidence of violations. The CBI closed the case in the Barak missile deal in 2013.
Bhanu Choudhrie and Sumant Kapur did not respond to multiple emails from The Indian Express seeking comment.