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612 Indians have cash stashed in tax havens: Global media reports
April, 05th 2013

A global journalistic investigation has exposed secret financial dealings of rich individuals, politicians, industrialists and even ordinary professionals through tax havens, setting off political ripples across Europe and Asia. Among those exposed are 612 Indians, including at least two MPs and several industrialists.

The investigation — conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its partner media houses — has exposed 120,000 companies registered in secretive tax havens and around 130,000 individuals and their front men.

Among the Indians with accounts in the tax havens are Rajya Sabha member and chief of ailing Kingfisher airline, Vijay Mallya, Lok Sabha member Vivekanand Gaddam, and industrialists such as Ravikant Ruia, Teja Raju, Samir Modi, Chetan Burman, Abhey Kumar Oswal, Rahul Mammen Mappillai, Saurabh Mittal, Sonu Lalchand Mirchandani, Vinod Doshi etc.

Some of the Indians are NRIs, and so could legitimately use tax havens, while many others have denied ever opening accounts in British Virgin Islands (BVI) or other tax havens. Though Indians can legally transfer out of India up to $200,000 a year, RBI does not permit moving this money directly to tax havens.

Money parked in tax havens could attract attention of agencies looking at tax and money laundering, while also adding further to the global debate over avoidance of taxes by corporations and rich individuals. The argument is that the rich are parking their money, sometime ill-gotten, in tax havens where there is negligible tax and thus avoiding money meant for welfare of the poor.

Industrialists such as Mirchandani, founder of Onida, Teja Raju, son of disgraced Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju, and Ramakrishna Karuturi, world's biggest cut rose producer, have all denied opening accounts in BVI or any other tax havens. Ruia and Mallya have claimed that they are NRIs.

What has been revealed is only a fraction of the over $32 billion believed to be parked in tax havens around the world. The stories flowing out of the investigations have set off political ripples across several countries. The investigations have unveiled secret accounts of senior government officials or political leaders from countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and others.

In France, Jean-Jacques Augier, President Francois Hollande's campaign co-treasurer and close friend, admitted to holding secret accounts through business entities in Cayman Islands.

In the Philippines, Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, the eldest child of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and now a senior political leader, and her children were found to be beneficiaries of a trust based in BVI.

The Greek government has started an investigation into the details of accounts and companies held by its residents.

Bayartsogt Sangajav, Mongolia's deputy speaker of Parliament and a former finance minister, had an offshore company and a secret Swiss account. He admitted to ICIJ that he shouldn't have opened the account. "I probably should consider resigning from my position," he said.

In Canada, a prominent lawyer who is married to a senator was found to have transferred over $1 million to secretive financial havens at a time when he was fighting Canada Revenue Agency over his taxes. Tony Merchant, whose wife Pana Merchant is a senator, transferred money to a tax haven and further to an account in the Caribbean, the investigation found.

It also found that a corporate mogul who had won several billion dollars worth of contracts in Azerbaijan had opened at least three BVI companies in the name of the daughters of the country's president Ilham Aliyev. The president and his wife also had their BVI company, the investigation found.

In Thailand, the former wife of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, high-profile tycoons and several others were found to be operating secretive tax haven accounts directly, or through front companies.

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