New Delhi | Updated: June 21, 2018 12:08:15 pm
The latest tranche of Panama Papers has unearthed new details of offshore holdings by the family of Iqbal Mirchi, who was once wanted by Mumbai Police and died in London five years ago.
These documents reveal more details about Country Property Ltd, a British Virgin Islands (BVI) entity which was investigated by The Indian Express during the 2016 data leak linked to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Country was incorporated in 2010 by Iqbal Mirchi’s wife, Hajra Iqbal Memon, and their two sons, Junaid Iqbal Memon and Asif Iqbal Memon.
The new data also contains information about another BVI entity incorporated by the family in 2015, just five months before the global data leak, called FSN Properties Ltd. They show that both these entities were set up to manage “real estate investment in the UK”.
On April 5, 2016, The Indian Express reported that the Panama Papers leak contain documents which confirm what Indian agencies had in their dossier on Mirchi — Country was one of the 17 offshore companies formed to manage his real estate empire with properties in the UK, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco and Spain.
Panama Papers: Iqbal Mirchi, Country Property Ltd
On May 3, 2016, a month after the Panama Papers revelations, Country figured on the list of 69 offshore companies, mostly set up by Indians, that was sent by BVI’s Financial Investigation Agency to Mossack Fonseca.
The new data contains internal correspondence and emails between April 2016 and December 2017, which show that even as the law firm pushed its clients to adhere to due diligence norms, the family reorganised its holdings in Country.
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Documents show that on March 27, 2017, one share certificate was held by the three Memons jointly, while a new certificate was issued for Junaid Iqbal Memon and Asif Iqbal Memon. There are no details on the value of these shares.
There is only a single file in the latest data on FSN, with annexures on the register of directors and register of members. They show that Mirchi’s wife was the company’s sole director in December 2016 before changes were made a year later, with Hajra and her two sons jointly holding two share certificates.
Consider other key details revealed by the latest leak on Country Property:
* In its reply to the FIA, Mossack Fonseca mentioned Hajra Iqbal Memon as the beneficial owner.
* The firm’s risk matrix was changed to “high risk” following the global leak, and an email sent to the intermediary company as late as March 20, 2017, warning that if due diligence norms were not met within 30 days, the law firm would cease to be the company’s registered agent.
* Internal checklists stated that the source of funds for investments in these offshore firms were “hospitality in UAE and real estate business activities”.
* The three family members listed their nationality in incorporation documents as Indian, with passport copies as proof, but a written undertaking submitted by Hajra stated her two sons, Asif Iqbal and Junaid Iqbal, were residing with her in the UAE.
Mirchi died of a heart attack at the age of 63 in 2013. He was wanted by Mumbai Police for allegedly having handled the finances of Dawood Ibrahim, and arrested by Scotland Yard after the CBI issued a Red Corner Notice against him. But he successfully resisted attempts to extradite him to India.
Responding to a questionnaire sent by The Indian Express, the family’s lawyer Marcus Rutherford stated that “none of the questions… possibly suggest unlawful activity of any kind…”
“My clients comply with all local laws in all jurisdictions in which they hold assets and there is no justification for continuing to link their names into your journalistic investigation,” he stated.
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