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Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes – Panama Issue Full Analysis

Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes – Panama Issue Full Analysis – Panama Papers are back. Two years after the first leak, more documents from Panama’s law firm Mossack Fonseca have come out in the public domain. According to the India Express, more than 12 lakh fresh documents have been examined by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The leaked documents were originally obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. At least 12,000 of these fresh documents are linked to Indians. The previous leak was reported in 2016 where more than 500 Indians were named in the documents of Mossack Fonseca.

The report says that 426 Indians are under the scrutiny of the multi-agency group (MAG) set up by the central government. Black money of over Rs 1,000 crores has been detected by the MAG probing the leads from 2016 leak.

Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes - Panama Issue Full Analysis

Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes – Panama Issue Full Analysis

Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes – Panama Issue Full Analysis

What is new in the fresh Panama Papers leak?

Fresh documents from the Panama Papers contain names of some big Indian business magnets who did not figure in the 2016 leak. These names include:

PVR cinema owner Ajay Bijli and his family members

Hike Messenger CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal – the son of Sunil Mittal, the chairman of Bharti Airtel

Asian Paints promoter Ashwin Dani’s son Jalaj Ashwin Dani.

These papers also confirm the business links exposed in the previous leak and then denied by Indian nationals. Those Indian nationals whose links to offshore entities have been confirmed by the fresh leak include:

Shiv Vikram Khemka – SUN group patriarch Nand Lal Khemka’s son

Actor Amitabh Bachchan

Jehangir Sorabjee – the son of former attorney general Soli Sorabjee

DLF Group’s KP Singh and his immediate family

Anurag Kejriwal – the former Delhi Lok Satta Party leader

Navin Mehra of Mehrasons Jewellers

Hajra Iqbal Memon- Wife of underworld don Iqbal Mirchi.

What Is Panama Papers Leak ? -Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes

Panama Papers pdf – Panama Leak Return Again – More Indian Names

  • It is a set of 11.5 million documents that were leaked from a Panama-based corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca. (Note: Panama is a Central American country).
  • It is considered as the biggest leak in the history, even bigger than the WikiLeaks and the Snowden leaks.
  • The documents contain detailed information (including those of shareholders and directors, and even passport information!) about more than 2.14 lakh offshore companies listed by the agency.
  • It is alleged that the agency facilitated the rich and influential people to hide their wealth from public scrutiny, and thus evade taxation in their domestic domains.
  • The alleged perpetrators vary from current government leaders to public officials to close associates of various heads of the governments etc. The leak consists of data created between 1970s and late 2015.
  • The data primarily comprises e-mails, PDF files, photos, and excerpts of an internal Mossack Fonseca database, covering a period from the 1970s to 2016.
  • The Panama Papers leak provides data on some 214,000 companies with a folder for each shell firm that contains e-mails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents. The leak comprised over 4.8 million emails, 3 million database format files, 2.2 million PDFs, 1.2 million images, 320 thousand text files, and 2242 files in other formats.

What does Mossack Fonseca do?

  • Mossack Fonseca is the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm. It was founded by German lawyer Jurgen Mossack in 1977, and later joined by Panamanian novelist/lawyer Ramon Fonseca.

Its Services:Panama Papers pdf – Panama Leak Return Again – More Indian Names

  • It specializes in commercial law, trust services, investor advisory, and international business structures.
  • It also offers intellectual property protection, wealth management and maritime law services.
  • More importantly its services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as British Virginia Islands and helping in administering such firms, for a yearly fee.
  • Though it is based in Panama, it has operations and franchises worldwide, particularly in the tax havens like Switzerland, Cyprus, and British Virginia Islands (BVI) etc. It has so far acted for more than 3, 00,000 companies, including a lakh such companies in BVI alone.
  • It was also in news for Argentine money laundering controversy (K-Money); money laundering by German Commerzbank; its role in the Petrobras corruption scandal and more recently following the Panama Papers Leak.

How the leak was possible?

  • The documents were made available to a Munich based newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, from early 2015 through encrypted channels, from an anonymous source who was using the pseudonym John Doe.
  • It is said that the whistle blower didn’t seek nothing but undisclosed security cover as compensation, as (s)he believed the company was involved in unethical business.
  • The cache of information sized around 2.6 terabytes, and Suddeutsche Zeitung sought the help of the US based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The consortium helped in distributing the documents for parallel investigation and analysis to around 107 media centres in 80-odd countries.

Who are involved in the Leaked Papers?

  • As per the disclosed papers, there are at least 12 national leaders among the 143 politicians or their family members or close associates, managing offshore firms, besides other famous personalities around the globe.

Some of the more famous names are:

  1. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend, one Sergei Roldugin, is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore.
  2. Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s family (3 of his 4 children).
  3. Ayad Allawi, ex-interim Prime Minister of Iraq.
  4. Petro Poroshenko, the in-famous President of Ukraine. He had set up a secret off-shore company in British Virginia Islands. He didn’t disclose any information about the firm, while serving as the President, and hence violates the country’s constitution, says anti-corruption group Transparency International.
  5. Two cousins of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  6. Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Bin Abdulrahman al Saud held an ‘unspecific role’, in a Luxembourg based company.
  7. Ala Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak.
  8. Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Prime Minster of Iceland. He was elected after the 2008 banking collapse in Iceland and had pledged to clean up corruption in the banking system. Following the leak, he announced his resignation on April 5, even while vehemently opposing any wrong-doing.
  9. Brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  10. An offshore investment fund was run by British Prime Minister David Cameroon’s father.
  11. Lionel Andres Messi, the football club Barcelona (FCB)’s forward and 5-time Ballon d’Or winner. His family has been accused of tax evasion.
  12. Scandal also touches a key member of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, Juan Pedro Damiani, banks like HSBC etc.

Indians involved: the Indian newspaper represented in ICIJ consortium is The Indian Express. The Indian names (so far) revealed by the newspaper include:

Aiswarya Rai: was director/share-holder of a now dissolved company based in British Virginia Islands.

Amitabh Bachchan: was director of one shipping firm in BVI and three in Bahamas.

Sameer Gehlaut, India bulls owner.

KP Singh, DLF Promoter.

Vinod Adani.

Two politicians Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal of Delhi.

What are Tax Havens?

  • They are defined as those jurisdictions in which their banks provide services primarily to non-residents and they do not require the account holders to disclose information about them or their business, more than the bare minimum.
  • Such jurisdictions offer the comfort of high privacy and opaque transactions, an impenetrable wall of secrecy.
  • Tax havens are invariably low-tax regimes.
  • Examples: Many of such jurisdictions are small island nations (and hence the name). Examples include British Virginia Islands, Panama, Bahamas, and Macao etc.
  • Many of the firms registered in such jurisdictions are ‘Shell Companies”.

What are Shell Companies?

  • A shell company has an outward appearance of being a legitimate firm, but it is nothing but an empty shell.
  • It helps in managing the money involved within the company, while hiding who really owns the company.
  • It is also called “letter-box company”, as consist of little more than an address to post to.
  • So most obvious motive behind such off-shore firms in the tax havens is to avoid taxes, in the mother country.
  • Thus such jurisdictions thus play an important role in large-scale money-laundering activities, corruption activities, terrorism funding, storing revenue from organised crimes etc.

References 

  • Clear IAS
  • Indian Express
  • Guardian Express
  • Insights on India

Where can I download the Panama Papers documents and data sets? -Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes 

Panama Papers  data was included in ICJ project “Offshore leaks” and now it’s available to download from https://offshoreleaks.icij.org

Panama Papers Leaks India UPSC Notes – Panama Issue Full Analysis

By |2018-06-21T21:13:36+00:00June 21st, 2018|Current Affairs|0 Comments

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