By Ruma Dubey
The Paradise Paper leaks, the second largest leak in the world after the Panama Papers, has created quite a lot of hell, especially for the elite and super rich, living in the Garden of Eden. This has created a flutter on the international media; for once, Trump is not the leading story!
We cannot brush it off as something which concerns “others” because amongst the elite and wealthy people named, lots of Indians (no surprises there!) too figure out on this list. So here is a quick FAQ about the Paradise Papers.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE THERE PARADISE PAPERS?
That’s the first question which comes to mind. Well, while the Indian media remained too busy with internal politics or Trump or Pakistan, the international media has been analyzing and scrutinizing a vast leak of financial documents - 13.4m files. The Paradise Papers is a global investigation into the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies.
WHERE DID THIS LEAK HAPPEN?
The leaks were first obtained by a German newspaper – Suddeutsche Zeitung; it was the one which broke the story on the Panama Papers too. The German paper shared this leak with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a US-based organisation that coordinated the global collaboration. This was put up for the entire media fraternity around the world to analyze - there were 96 media partners in the project – a total of 381 journalists from 67 countries. From India, only Indian Express was the media partner.
WHAT WAS THE SOURCE OF THIS DATA?
These financial documents were huge – 13.4m out of which, 6.8m came from a law firm and corporate services provider that operated together in 10 jurisdictions under the name Appleby. The leaks included the database of Appleby customers from 1993 to 2014 – some 1,20,000 individual and companies (25,000 offshore companies). Not all are connected to a company registered offshore thus making it an impossible task to check whether the customer is just a contact or if they have used Appleby services over many years. Many clients come from the UK, China and Hong-Kong, but the largest number, more than 30,000, are from the US.
The leaked documents also contains files from a smaller, family-owned trust company, Asiaciti and details from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in secrecy jurisdictions – Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Labuan, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu. The papers cover the period from 1950 to 2016.
WHAT DID THE PAPERS FIND?
- Reveals offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II who invested millions of pounds offshore , and 13 advisers, major donors and members of U.S. President Donald J. Trump
- Exposes the tax engineering of more than 100 multinational corporations, including Apple, Nike and Botox-maker Allergan
- Reveals tax haven shopping sprees by multinational companies in Africa and Asia that use shell companies in Mauritius and Singapore to reduce taxes
- Shines a light on secretive deals and hidden companies connected to Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trader, and provides detailed accounts of the company’s negotiations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for valuable mineral resources
- Provides details of how owners of jets and yachts, including royalty and sports stars, used Isle of Man tax-avoidance structures.
- Russian govt quietly held major investments in US social media – Twitter and Facebook.
- Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser is linked to offshore tax maneuvers.
WHO ARE THE INDIANS FIGURING IN THIS LIST?
India ranks 19 out of the 180 countries represented in the data in terms of the number of names. In all, there were 714 Indians but the Indian Express has stated – it does not necessarily mean the people named are involved in crimes. Here is what the Indian Express has revealed till now:
- Electrical appliances company Havells India floated over 50 offshore subsidiaries, most of them in tax havens, since February 2000.
- Film actor, Sanjay Dutt’s wife, Manyata, held several positions in a Bahamas-registered firm Nasjay Company Limited.
- In a case of potential conflict-of-interest, the chairman of Fortis-Escorts, Dr Ashok Seth held shares in a Singapore-listed company that manufactures stents.
- Corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, was part of two offshore companies in Malta.
- Funds amounting to over $1.5 billion were diverted using four offshore subsidiaries of United Spirits.
- Former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot; Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram; former Union minister Sachin Pilot; and, Ravi Krishna, son of former Union minister Vayalar Ravi, Minister of State for Civil Aviation- Jayant Sinha, are all named in this list.
- Amitabh Bachchan is also named – he is a shareholder in a digital media company incorporated in Bermuda. He made the investment after hosting the first season of the TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2000-01.
- Jindal Steel, Videocon Industries, Sun TV, GMR Infra and Essar Shipping have also been named.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THIS LEAK?
Don’t know about international response but in India, all the rich and elite will come up with perfect papers and prove that all this was done legally. Not a single one will get prosecuted. The rich, are after all, the most law-abiding citizens of India; don’t we all know this truth?
For a complete picture into this, you can read at: https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/