NEW DELHI: Nearly 2,000 individuals, entities and addresses with links to India figure in the latest edition of Panama Papers giving information on offshore holding of companies in tax havens.

A random check of the database for India displays about 22 offshore entities, 1,046 official or individual links, 42 intermediaries and as many as 828 addresses within the country.

These range from the posh locations of metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to ‘mofussil’ locations like that in Haryana’s Sirsa, Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur and state capital Bhopal and those in North Eastern states.

“The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (has) published a searchable database that strips away the secrecy of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

“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.

The global body that brought out last month the first edition of the Panama Papers, by way of secret offshore data sourced from a Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, said the information about a particular country could have “duplicates” as it reiterated that “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts”.

“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 release of the offshore “leaks” database.

India, taking note of over 500 entities that surfaced in the first set of names released last month, had created a multi-agency group (MAG) comprising officers from various central investigative agencies like the income tax department, FIU, RBI and foreign tax and tax research (FT and TR) under the Central Board of Direct Taxes apart from the special investigation team (SIT) on black money reviewing probe in these cases.

Names and addresses put up on the website of the body not only shows identities of some individuals and addresses along with description of the companies held but also specifies the date of incorporation of the firms in some cases.

The database has around 30,000 documents listed with India links. ICIJ said it was releasing these additional details on names and addresses 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”.

The group said the “new data that ICIJ is now making public represents a fraction of the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11.5 million leaked files from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s top creators of hard-to-trace companies, trusts and foundations.

“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.”

By arrangement with the Times of India

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2016

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