Panama Papers go online, reveal 2000 Indian links

RSTV Bureau

Mossack Fonseca Panama PapersThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has released a massive chunk of the Panama Papers database which reveals details of offshore holdings of companies in various tax haven nations.

The list comprises of names of shareholders, beneficiaries, intermediaries and addresses pertaining to over 200,000 offshore entities found in Mossack Fonseca’s internal database.

The data released online also includes thousands of documents related to India linking close to 2,000 individuals, entities and addresses.

“The data, part of the Panama Papers investigation, is the largest ever release of information about offshore companies and the people behind them. This includes, when available, the names of the real owners of those opaque structures,” the consortium said.

In connection with India, 22 offshore entities, 1,046 officers or individual links, 42 intermediaries and as many as 828 addresses within the country are revealed in the list.

The BJP-led government in India has said in the ongoing session of Parliament that the Income Tax department has issued notices to a number of entities named in the list. Indian investigators say they “will be looking into” as much fresh information that comes in this case including the latest revelations.

However, the matter is also in the Supreme Court which has sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking CBI inquiry against Indian offshore bank account holders named in the leaked data.

“We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly,” the body said on its web portal as part of the disclaimer on the “leaks”.

There may be “legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts,” claimed ICIJ.

“ICIJ is not publishing the totality of the leak, and it is not disclosing raw documents or personal information en masse. The database contains a great deal of information about company owners, proxies and intermediaries in secrecy jurisdictions, but it doesn’t disclose bank accounts, email exchanges and financial transactions contained in the documents,” it said.

The report further reveals that tax-free New Zealand shelf companies and trusts are being used to help channel funds around the world. The number of foreign trusts in New Zealand has surged to almost 10,700 this year from less than 2,000 ten years ago, according to Inland Revenue figures quoted in the report. This has mounted the pressure on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to take action.

According to ICIJ, the data was released online in “public interest” and also to “find out who’s behind almost 320,000 offshore companies and trusts from the Panama Papers and the offshore leaks investigations.”

(With inputs from agencies)