DAYS AFTER the Panama Papers leak — published by The Indian Express in association with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in a series of reports starting April 4, 2016 — revealed how Mossack Fonseca (MF) helped thousands of clients set up offshore entities in tax havens, the Panamanian law firm was forced to take two urgent steps.
First, it urged its clients to comply with due diligence norms by submitting mandatory documents, including certified declarations of sources of funds, identities of beneficiary owners, and proof of identity and address. Then, after receiving a list of 69 entities for verification from the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), it informed many clients of its intention to resign as their registered offshore agent, giving 90 days to find a new representative.
Both these moves covered a number of Indians between July 2016 and June 2017. Many of them featured in the Panama Papers investigation by The Indian Express two years ago. And many of these notices were sent to shareholders and directors of offshore firms that had already been wound up.
The cache of new data reveals that on March 23, 2017, barely a year after the Panama Papers, MF responded to queries from BVI authorities on J&S Systems Corporation by revealing that the beneficiary owner of this entity was Onkar Kanwar, chairman of Apollo Group. MF also revealed that J&S, which set up in 2010, held a bank account each at Cayman National Bank in the Isle of Man and Barclays in Singapore. The new data includes a 90-day resignation notice served by MF to J&S on February 7, 2017, stating that the company did not meet BVI’s law and due diligence requirements. On May 8, MF reminded an intermediary to urgently provide due diligence documents, failing which the firm would not “pause the final resignation” to be completed within the next 10 days. On May 22, 2017, a set of documents was provided by the intermediary but it remains unclear if these met MF’s due diligence requirements.
On April 4, 2016, responding to queries from The Indian Express on J&S, an Apollo Tyres spokesperson had said that “any investment abroad that the Kanwar family may have, is in due compliance with Indian laws, where applicable, including making disclosures wherever required”.
Rajendra Patil is the son-in-law of veteran Congressman and former Karnataka Horticulture Minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa, a businessman and educationist who owns medical and engineering colleges in Davangere. On April 5, 2016, The Indian Express had reported that Patil and two associates, Sanjay Nadgouda and Shashank Angadi, had set up a BVI entity Elgenburg Ltd in 2007 — Patil held 22,500 of the initial holding of 50,000 shares. The new data shows that on May 10, 2016, a month after the Panama Papers leak, Elgenburg Ltd figured on the list of 69 clients for whom BVI’s Financial Investigating Agency had sought details. On September 16, 2016, MF sent the company and its shareholders its resignation notice.
“In spite of your assertions to the contrary, you cannot deny that much data was leaked from Mossack Fonseca records into the public domain.”
On May 5, 2016, The Indian Express reported that Kavita Kapilashrami, a vedic astrologer, was a sole shareholder of Perfect Ten Group Ltd, a BVI entity. The new leak reveals that six months later, on October 3, 2016, BVI’s ITA sent a notice to MF seeking all documents of the company, which was set up in 2010. MF complied on October 14, records show. But then, on October 20, MF sent its resignation notice to the company. The records show that the entity’s Hong Kong-based Company Secretary had resigned much earlier — on September 16, 2016. The new leak includes email exchanges indicating that several documents of the company were missing in MF records.
The owners of BVI-registered Jupiter Group Holding Ltd and World Wide Group Holding Ltd were listed in the Panama Papers leak. New documents reveal that over six months later, on October 24, 2016, the International Tax Authority (ITA) in the BVI asked MF to produce all records for the two firms, with a warning that failure to comply would attract a penalty of up to $5,000 or imprisonment. The records were dispatched within three days to the ITA with the registry of Jupiter Group listing Preetam Bothra, Sweta Gupta, Pradip Kumar Bothra and Kritin Bothra as directors. On November 3, 2016, Preetam Bothra and Sweta Gupta received the resignation notice from MF. In an email dated November 30, 2016, an official from a company linked to Preetam Bohra, and registered in the Isle of Man, tells an MF employee: “…in spite of your assertions to the contrary, you cannot deny that much data was leaked from Mossack Fonseca records into the public domain…”
Ghatkopar-based Upadhyay and two other directors based in Hong Kong and Indonesia of Phyto Trading International Inc registered in BVI received the resignation notice from MF on September 2016, five months after the Panama Papers revelation. The notice was approved by the Finance Services Commission of BVI. However, earlier MF records show that Phyto Trading International, set up in 2008, was deactivated and struck off MF records in 2010.
The new leak shows that on September 27, 2016, five months after the Panama Papers leak, the ITA in BVI demanded that MF supply all documents and identity papers for TPL Shipping Ltd, with Gummadi listed as the sole shareholder. On November 21, 2016, after submitting the documents, MF sent Gummadi the resignation notice. But earlier MF records show that the company, set up in 2011, was deactivated in 2012 and struck off records in 2013.
On September 16, 2016, five months after the Panama Papers leak, MF managing director Dapline Durand sent the resignation notice to the Kandivali West address of Lalit Kanakraj Bafna, the sole shareholder of Hill Vista Global Ltd in the BVI. But earlier MF records show that the entity, which was registered by its Singapore branch in 2008, had subsequently defaulted on its commitments and was struck off the registry in 2009.
On March 16, 2017, nearly a year after the Panama Papers leak, MF sent identical resignation notices to Chennai-based Banda Sivaprasad Reddy and Devalla Karunakar Reddy, two Indian shareholders of BVI-registered Helios International Investments Corporation. Previous MF data shows that Helios was incorporated through its Singapore branch in 2012 and struck off its records in April 2014. The new records also show that on March 8 and March 9, MF sent resignation notices for two other offshore entities linked to Karunakar Reddy — Aneek International Investment Pte Ltd and Rithwika International Investment Pte Ltd — at his Chennai address. This was after the ITA of BVI asked MF for all information on the two companies on February 20, 2017.
On September 8, 2016, five months after the Panama Papers revelation, MF sent the resignation notice to Gopal Anand for his BVI entity, Project and Management Services Ltd, which was struck off the register on April 30, 2015. Previous MF records show that Anand, an NRI since 1974 mostly based in Africa before moving back to India a few years ago, held all 100 ordinary shares in the entity since August 15, 1997, eight days after registration.
New records show that from September 2016, five months after the Panama Papers leak, MF pressed for due-diligence formalities to be completed for Shine Gem Investments Ltd, a BVI entity registered by Jhaveri, a jeweller. In March 2017, MF sent him a notice of resignation. Records show that Jhaveri became a director of Shine Gem Investments in October 2012. The fresh leak includes copies of letters written by MF to the ITA in BVI supplying some of the documents required. It includes an email dated March 9, 2017, from Hong Kong-based RYA Management Ltd, which incorporated Shine Gem Investments, asking: “Why resign?” But by then, MF had already sent its resignation notice.
The other Indian shareholder, Jai Kasshap Wadhwa, received a resignation notice from MF on September 8, 2016, in the name of his second BVI entity, Emporio Way Ltd.
Varghese is the only Indian among six directors in BVI-based Triassic Investments Ltd – he was appointed in 1999. On April 4, 2017, exactly a year after the Panama Papers leak, MF sent the firm a long list of “infirmities” in the company’s due diligence, including source of funds and “specifics” of Varghese. On April 20, 2017, MF sent the resignation notice despite emails from the incorporation agent asking it not to resign.
Navin Mehra of Delhi-based Mehrasons Jewellers received the resignation notice from MF on June 20, 2017, more than a year after the Panama Papers revelation. On April 8, 2016, The Indian Express had reported that several members of the Mehra family were shareholders in seven offshore entities incorporated after 1999 by MF in the Bahamas and BVI, including Holland Park Group and Stonebay International Group. The Panama Papers leak had revealed inter-company loan and share exchanges, and enhanced holdings since 2011.
Mehrasons Jewellers was also among the first to face action from the Enforcement Directorate in the clutch of 50 Panama Papers cases referred to them — on June 15, 2017, the ED froze assets worth Rs 7 crore of the group while probing charges of concealment of wealth. Five days later, the MF resignation notice was sent to his Panchsheel Park address in the name of Holland Park Group.
Businessman Venkatachalam Gedupudi received the MF resignation notice on October 19, 2016, six months after the Panama Papers leak. The Panama Papers data listed him as the sole shareholder of Castilla Global Assets Ltd, a BVI entity incorporated by MF in 2010 — its documents were last certified by MF in September 2016. The resignation notice was sent to the Khairtabad address listed at the time of registration.
Along with her son Rohit Tiwari, a US citizen, Madhulika Tiwari is listed in The Panama Papers leak as a director of BVI entity Morris St Advisors Ltd. New records show that MF repeatedly contacted the client for documents even after resigning as the registered agent, following queries from the ITA of BVI. Records show that MF sent its resignation notice the New Delhi residence of Madhulika Tiwari on July 11, 2016, three months after the Panama Papers leak. On February 6, 2017, MF received a query from the ITA, seeking details of the company. The new records show that MF then urged the BVI entity to file the documents on its checklist, such as bank accounts and source of funds, even though their “business relationship has terminated”.
“Client has not renewed his company because his information was leaked and he had all kinds of problems as a result.”
New records show that among the offshore entities for whom the BVI’s Financial Investigating Agency sought details was Nandan Technologies Ltd, which has businessman Bhavanasi Jaya Kumar listed as a director. The Indian Express reported on April 7, 2016, that Jaya Kumar became a shareholder of Nandan Technologies in 2008, and Grandbay Canal Ltd in 2015. Six months later, on October 19, 2016, MF sent the resignation notice for Nandan Technologies to Kumar’s Banjara Hills residence in Hyderabad. Another resignation notice was sent to him for Bhasu Capitals Ltd.
The Indian Express reported on April 7, 2016, that financial consultant Bhandari registered Ferryden International Ltd in the BVI in 2005, holding all its 50,000 shares. New records show that on May 3, 2016, the company featured on a list of offshore firms sent by the BVI’s Financial Investigating Agency to MF for more details. On December 15, 2016, MF sent its resignation notice to the Ahmedabad address listed in incorporation and due-diligence documents of the company.
The extremely lax due diligence norms of Mossack Fonseca are revealed in the case of this Indian client from Indore, the sole shareholder of a BVI business company named Dragon Ocean Investments Limited. After the media expose, on September 7, 2016, BVI’s International Tax Authority asks Mossack Fonseca for details of the company but in it s reply informs the authorities that besides the fact that the company was incorporated in 2009 and struck off records in 2011 they had no other details on their records.
Mossack in its reply admitted they are not aware of the ultimate Beneficial Owner of the company; where the company’s financial statements were lying and have not been able to get the same from the client. Two months later, on November 24th, 2016, Mossack Fonseca sends its notice for resignation to Jayant Sharma’s Indore address.
On May 4, 2016, The Indian Express cited a Certificate of Incumbency to report that Dwarakadas was appointed a director of BVI-registered Northglenn Group Ltd on January 18, 2001, and held 50,000 shares of $1 each. On September 8, 2016, MF sent him the resignation notice. An identical notice is sent to the company’s other director in Australia.
The three are directors of BVI entity Sacvinam Global Ltd, which figures on the list of 69 firms mostly set up by Indian clients, for which MF sent details in a tabular form to the Financial Investigating Agency in BVI on May 10, 2016, barely a month after the Panama Papers revelation. On November 3, 2016, the three received identical resignation notices from the law firm, which had helped them set up the offshore entity in 2010. The new records show that on February 1, 2017, when the notice period mentioned in MF’s letter ended, an intermediary Interglobe sought more time stating that Sacvinam Global would shortly be registered with a new agent in the BVI.
New records show that MF sent a notice on September 7, 2016, five months after the global leak, to BVI entity YCube Holdings Ltd, of which Yamdagni is the sole director and shareholder, seeking documents and identification papers. On February 14, 2017, the law firm sent the resignation notice. Just a week earlier, the fresh leak shows, the “client” informed MF employees about the impact of the Panama Papers leak. “YCube has been struck off the register as client has not renewed his company because his information was leaked and he had all kinds of problems as a result,” says a noting on the file on the documents. On May 5, 2016, The Indian Express had reported that the offshore entity was set up on December 6, 2005, with a Sarvodaya Enclave address for Yamdagni in Delhi. At the address, a man who identified himself as Yamdagni’s cousin said he owned the property — and that Yamdagni had moved to Bangkok in the 1990s. When contacted over email, Yamdagni had responded: “I am not an Indian citizen and/or passport holder. The Y Cube Company is set up as a trading company so we can trade with China. Although set up some time ago, this company has not done any business with China and thus has remained ‘stagnant’ despite several attempts to do some business…”
The new leaks show that since January 2017, nine months after the Panama Papers leak, this father-son duo have been trying to get the New Delhi address of their two BVI companies changed in the registries but in vain. The Indian Express had reported on May 6, 2016, that the two firms, Dunia Resources Corp and Dunia Treasures Corp, were set up in 2010 by MF (Peru) with a Greater Kailash address listed on the records. In one email, Shankar Darbari wrote: “The courtesy of a reply would be highly appreciated. Its way way overdue.” On February 23, 2017, records show, MF sent its resignation notice to the New Delhi address. On May 31, 2017, records show, they were sent a notice by the ITA of BVI. Speaking to The Indian Express in the aftermath of the Panama Papers leak, Raja Darbari had said: “I am a Dutch national by birth and an EU citizen. I do not live in India. My father Shankar Darbari is an NRI and has lived outside India for 30-odd years. My father’s parents live at their family home in New Delhi.”