'IAS officer and wife of Delhi power secy among those who invested in tax haven'

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The 612 Indians on the list of those who have invested in tax havens.(AP) The 612 Indians on the list of those who have invested in tax havens.(AP)
SummaryThey are among 612 Indians whose names were published in a global media exposé.

A now-retired IAS officer who was awarded the Padma Shri, the wife of another serving IAS officer, a lawyer named in connection with the alleged kickbacks paid in the AgustaWestland helicopter scandal, top corporate executives, real estate developers and diamond merchants figure in a new list of Indians who have invested in tax havens II such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

They are among 612 Indians whose names were published in a global media exposé earlier this year and more than 500 of them have now got notices from the income tax department, seeking details and transactions of all their offshore firms and trusts.

The exposé by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in collaboration with 38 media organisations around the world, including the The Indian Express, was published in early April.

It contained details of more than 1.2 lakh offshore companies and trusts of individuals and companies in more than 170 countries and territories, including 612 Indians.

Of these 612, The Indian Express had published a first list of 20 prominent names that included two Members of Parliament — Lok Sabha Congress MP Vivekanand Gaddam and RS member Vijay Mallya — and several industrialists such as Ravikant Ruia, Samir Modi, Chetan Burman, Abhay Kumar Oswal, Rahul Mammen Mappillai, Teja Raju, Saurabh Mittal and Vinod Doshi.

The new names being published Wednesday include former IAS officer Anil Lakhina; Delhi power secretary R K Verma’s wife Ritu Verma; Gautam Khaitan, a lawyer named in connection with the AgustaWestland helicopter scandal; and Anand K Pandit, a director on the board of Syndicate Bank.

n Lakhina registered a company named Vanazon Ltd., in the BVI in October 2007 when he was a senior IAS officer and chairman and managing director of the public sector Rural Electrification Corporation. Lakhina, who headed REC from August 2005 to February 2008, is listed as a shareholder in Vanazon.

IAS officers need the government’s permission to own shares in a company while RBI approval is required to open a company abroad. There is no evidence to suggest Lakhina obtained either.

Lakhina was conferred the Padma Shri in 1986 for his innovative style of maintaining files, which went on to be described as the ‘Lakhina model’. He retired in 2008.

“I have no recollection about such an entity. And I no longer live in the New Delhi address given,” Lakhina said when reached for his comment.

n Ritu Verma, wife of Delhi power secretary R K Verma, is a shareholder in Windsor Incorporation Inc., which was started in July 2007 with an authorised share capital of $50,000. The memorandum of association and other company documents say it is involved in “investment”. A housewife, Ritu Verma gave the official residential address of her husband when Windsor was being incorporated. R K Verma declined to comment.

n Khaitan, a Delhi-based lawyer, registered Windsor Group Holdings Ltd in the BVI on May 12, 2009. He was also on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, which Italian investigators have alleged was one of the channels through which kickbacks in the IAF’s VVIP helicopter deal were distributed.

The investigators had also alleged that Khaitan was partially a partner in a Mauritius company called Interstellar Technologies Ltd., which they suspected was the node through which most payments were made.

The other partners in Interstellar were the three brothers of former air chief S P Tyagi and Swiss-based middlemen Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

Reached for his comment on registering Windsor in the BVI, Khaitan said: “I deny having any such company registered in the BVI.”

Details of the new names are published on www.indianexpress.com.

A Central Board of Direct Taxes analysis of the offshore data has found that 170 names on the list had used their addresses in Mumbai to register the entities in the British Virgin Islands and 113 had used Delhi addresses. The income tax notices have also been sent to 44 addresses in Kolkata, 32 in Bangalore, 26 in Chennai and 14 in Hyderabad, among others.

The two-page notices - sent by investigation wings of the income tax department in Delhi and Mumbai and accessed by The Indian Express - demand full disclosure by owners of these entities.

They demand all details and transactions of all offshore companies/firms/ trusts as well as all transactions of the entities with the domestic firms of those who have registered these offshore entities.

The addressees have been asked to give details about having disclosed such transactions to the income tax department in the past. They have also been asked to submit a set of eight listed documents which include all details of incorporation, financial statements, investments and loans/advances for each offshore company.

The addressees have been given one month’s time to reply with proof that all offshore financial interests and transactions had been disclosed in their 2012-13 IT returns as required by law.

Several NRIs on the list - who are entitled to immunity from declaring their offshore assets and investments - have also received the income tax notices and have been asked to appear either in person or send their representatives to explain the transactions.

Appuesthose Suresh, Ritu Sarin

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