Over a year after exposing the hidden wealth of the rich and powerful through Panama Papers, the International Consortium For Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has released a huge list of documents revealing the names of more people from around the world who have offshore accounts. Dubbed Paradise papers, these documents could shed light on how the rich corporations, hedge funds, politicians, and celebrities might have evaded taxes.
The revelations are part of a major financial data leak involving Singapore-based Asiaciti and Bermuda-based Appleby. The Paradise Papers reveal how these two companies helped the rich and powerful move their money abroad. It includes details of more than 25,000 companies from 1950 to 2016. Some of the most prominent names included in the Paradise Papers are the US Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Unsurprisingly, there were hundreds of names from Pakistan and India. The Panama Papers led to the ouster of the Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Only time will tell how much impact the Paradise Papers will have on the global politicians, celebrities, and corporations. Interestingly, India’s Sun Group was Appleby’s second largest client. Let’s look at some of the most prominent Pakistani and Indian names in the latest documents.
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It’s worth pointing out that not all offshore accounts, companies, and investments are illegal. They could also be used for legitimate purposes.
Pakistani names in Paradise Papers
As many as 135 Pakistani names have appeared in the new documents. They have accounts in a Swiss bank either in their own name or through offshore companies.
Ex-Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
Aziz served as the finance minister of Pakistan for five years before becoming Prime Minister (2004-07). Shaukat Aziz is also a former employee of Citibank. He was a director and shareholder of the Bahamas-based Cititrust Limited from 1997 to 1999. After becoming the finance minister of Pakistan in 1999, he created Delaware-based Antarctic Trust. Beneficiaries of the trust were his wife, children, and granddaughter. Shaukat Aziz never declared the trust to the election or tax authorities.
Ayaz Khan Niazi
Niazi is the former chairman of National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL). He has been linked with as many as four offshore companies based out of the British Virgin Islands. They are Andalusian Establishment Limited, Andalusian Holdings Limited, Andalusian Enterprises Limited, and a trust called Andalusian Discretionary Trust. Notably, the three companies were established when Ayaz Khan Niazi was still the chairman of the NICL.
The chief of Nishat Group is associated with as many as six offshore companies. Two of them are based in Mauritius while the other four are in the British Virgin Islands. Mansha responded to his name’s appearance in the Paradise Papers by saying that he had moved to the US in the mid-1990s, and that these accounts were only meant “to meet day-to-day living” during that period. He has since repatriated the money to Pakistan.
The hotel tycoon owns one offshore company in the Cayman Islands and another in Barbados. According to Geo TV, Hashwani used these offshore firms to secure loans from Standard Chartered. Two other companies linked to Hashwani were unearthed through the Panama Papers last year.
Well-known Indian names in the Paradise Papers
As many as 734 Indian names appeared in the Paradise Papers, including popular celebrities, politicians, and businesspersons. Many of the names have been linked to various corruption cases such as the Sun TV-Aircel-Maxis deal and Essar-Loop 2G case.
The legendary Bollywood star is a shareholder in a Bermuda-based company. Bachchan’s name had also appeared in the Panama Papers over a year ago. Right before the ICIJ published the Paradise Papers, Amitabh Bachchan wrote in a blog post that he had always cooperated with the “System,” without referring to the leaked documents.
Sinha is currently the Minister of State for Civil Aviation. His name appeared in the Paradise Papers because he had served as the Managing Director of Omidyar Network India. Omidyar Network holds investments in D.Light Design, which has a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. Sinha has denied any wrongdoing by saying that none of the transactions were done for “any personal purpose.”
However, the opposition parties have taken the opportunity to demand Sinha’s resignation. Congress has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking “zero action” against offshore black money.
The wife of Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt appears in the Paradise Papers as Dilnashin, her real name. The papers list her business dealings. She has been linked to a Bahamas-based company.
The Paradise Papers include hundreds of documents on the infrastructure giant. GMR Group has set up about 28 offshore companies via Appleby to evade taxes. Interestingly, the Income Tax Department had raided GMR’s office last year.
Vijay Mallya sold his stake in United Spirits to Diageo, and fled to the United Kingdom. The documents reveal that roughly INR 10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) of United Spirits’ loans were waived off by Diageo.
Ravindra Kishore Sinha
The BJP Member of Parliament is the founder of Security and Intelligence Services (SIS), a private security firm. He also leads a firm that has two offshore entities, revealed the papers. The opposition parties have also demanded RK Sinha’s resignation.