Panama papers probe: 14-month later and the first seizure in the Panama paper leak has been made. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) this week ordered the freezing of Rs 7 crore worth movable assets of a Delhi-based jeweller Ashwani Kumar Mehra along with that of his family members. This is the first case when such an order has been made in the case ever since April 2016 when documents with detailed financial information was revealed of people with offshore accounts were leaked by an anonymous source. According to an Indian Express report, an ED official said that more such cases related to the Panama Papers investigation, an expose of off-shore companies by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism-Suddeutsche Zeitung and The Indian Express are in the offing and members of the Mehra family had admitted to alleged violations under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS).
They further said that the Mehrasons case is one of the 49 other that have been routed to the Enforcement Directorate by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in wake of the Panama paper probe. ED also said that “the agency has alleged that the LRS route was misused by the Mehras by converting remittances into interest-free loans to companies located in the British Virgin Islands and, from there, to a company in the UAE also linked to them.” According to a press release issued by ED, “An estimated Rs 10.54 crore is still illegally parked outside India by the said persons.”
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According to records leaked by Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm, since 1999 Ashwani Kumar Mehra along with his family members had registered for seven off-shore firms in the BVI and Bahamas with the flagship company, PTC Group Limited, being nominated as either secretary or shareholder in the other companies, according to the report.