The Mumbai connection

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/The-Mumbai-connection/articleshow/46181076.cms

The Mumbai connection Mumbai Mirror | Feb 10, 2015, 02.00 AM IST

Mumbai mirrorThe Mumbai connection Mumbai Mirror Bureau Of the 1,195 HSBC accounts unearthed by a global journalists’ collective, 20 belong to those with tied to Mumbai.

On Monday, a team of journalists from 45 countries dredged up details of accounts maintained by a variety of individuals in HSBC’s Swiss banking arm. The sum of balances for the year 2006-07, held by clients from over 200 countries, exceeds $ 100 billion.

The Indian Express entered into a partnership with this collective of reporters, called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the French newspaper Le Monde, to narrow the focus of the inquiry to uncover those account holders who maintain links, however tenuous, to India. According to the Indian Express, HSBC’s Swiss branch counts 1,195 Indians as its clients.

Of these, 20 either call Mumbai home or are associated with it in some manner. Mumbai Mirror sifted through the roster to assemble brief profiles of those on the Swiss Leaks line-up with interests in this city – they are classified as those who live in Mumbai, those who were formerly in government but are now linked to Mumbai businesses, those who are tethered to the city by personal or professional ties and those who belong to the diamond trade; Mumbai is home to one of the world’s largest diamond exchanges.

THE MUMBAI LIST

Mukesh Ambani

Balance $ 26.6mn (Rs 164.92 crore)

The investigation shows the chairman of Reliance Industries held two accounts at HSBC in 2001, registered under Flag Telecom Group Ltd and Canbar Holding Corporation. On Monday, a Reliance spokesperson said: “Neither Reliance Industries nor Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate bank accounts anywhere in the world.”

Anil Ambani

Balance $ 26.6mn (Rs 164.92 crore)

Mukesh’s younger brother and chairman of Reliance Group, Anil maintains the same amount in his account as the elder Ambani, the probe has revealed. The Ambanis’ mother Kokila too has an account in the bank but the data uncovered by ICIJ provides no details. A spokesperson for the Anil Ambani said: “Mr Ambani does not have any HSBC overseas account.”

Smita Thackeray

Balance $103,236 mn (Rs 64 Lakh)

Smita Thackeray, a film producer, is the daughter-in-law of the late Bal Thackeray. Bank records show that she opened an account with HSBC Geneva from Mumbai in 2002. Thackeray did not respond to calls for comment.

Neelam Narayan Rane,Nilesh Rane

Balance Not mentioned

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane’s wife Neelam runs a hotel chain. His elder son Nilesh is a Lok Sabha MP. “I have nothing to do with this. I am not aware of any such accounts,” Nilesh Rane said.

Yashovardhan Birla

Balance Not mentioned

He is the Chairman of the Yash Birla Group. “We have no assets which are undisclosed under our name except what is required as per Indian laws. We have always complied with the legal system,” a spokesperson for Birla said.

K Raheja Corporation

Balance Not mentioned

The group’s first major township project was in Malad. Its chairman, Chandru Lachmandas Raheja, his wife Jyoti and two sons, Ravi and Neel, are all holders of individual accounts with HSBC Geneva. “All the money in the offshore accounts has been deposited under the Liberalized Remittance Scheme. We were contacted by tax authorities two years ago and all information given. No taxes needed to be paid,” a spokesperson for them said.

Mahima Chaudhry

Balance Not mentioned

Mahima is the only actress in the list – her name is catalogued as Ritu Chaudhary. Following appearances in several ads, Mahima worked in a clutch of movies, of which Pardes, directed by Subhash Ghai, was prominent. She is married to the businessman Bobby Mukherjee – the Indian Express report identifies him as Bonny Mukherjee. Mahima did not return calls seeking comment.

Dattaraj Salgaocar,Dipti Salgaocar

Balance $ 5.17mn (Rs 32 crore)

He is the owner and managing director of V M Salgaocar Group and is married to Dipti, sister of Mukesh and Anil Ambani. While there is no account balance shown for Dattaraj Salgaocar, his wife had a balance of $5.17 million. Dattaraj refused to comment.

Subhash Vasant Sathe, Indrani Sathe

Balance $749,370mn (Rs 4.64 crore)

Son and daughter-in-law of former Union minister Vasant Sathe, and who was an MP from Akola and Wardha, in the 70s and 80s respectively. The Sathes said they had no knowledge of the accounts.

THE INDIAN REVENUE SERVICE LIST

Sandeep Tandon (Deceased)

Balance $ 26.8mn (Rs 166.1 crore)

Sandeep Tandon, an officer of the IRS, sought voluntary retirement and joined Reliance Industries to head their taxation and liaison units. He died in 2010. Records show he had three accounts in HSBC with Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani shown as trustees in the list.

Kumar Venu Raman

Balance $ 3.06mn (Rs 18.97crore) +

Raman exited the IRS to work with the Essar Group. He has been an angel investor, founder of MModal Inc and President of Cbay Inc. He is Chairman and Managing Director of Aeries Group, an investment platform with offices in Mumbai and Hyderabad. “I have been an NRI for almost two decades and all responses and clarifications have been given by my representatives to the tax authorities,” he said.

ACCOUNT HOLDERS WITH TIES TO MUMBAI

Annu Tandon

Balance $ 5.72mn (Rs 35.8 crore)

Former Congress MP from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Annu Tandon ran a star-encrusted poll campaign in 2009, which included an appearance by Salman Khan. She was married to Sandeep Tandon. “I don’t have any accounts besides those in India. My husband is no more and if he opened some accounts, how would I know?” she said.

Naresh Goyal

Balance $ 18.71mn (Rs 116.28 crore)

The founder and chairman of Jet Airways, which he launched in 1993 and took public in 2005. He denied that any of the money in the HSBC account was illegitimate: “There is no black money. There is nothing to hide, nothing to worry. I am an NRI, following all regulations and rules.”

THE DIAMOND TRADERS

» CHETAN MEHTA, of Gembel, is also a trustee at Lilavati Hospital, and the most prominent name on the list of people linked to the gems trade. “I don’t have an account in HSBC bank. I don’t know how my name appeared on the list. Also I am an NRI who is been doing business outside India so I am not taking money outside India,” he said.

» RUSELL MEHTA, of Rosy Blue, which owns the retail brand Orra

» ANOOP MEHTA, of Mohit Gems, is President of the Bharat Diamond Bourse

» SAUNAK PARIKH, of Mahendra Brothers, with offices at Bandra Kurla Complex

» GOVINDBHAI KAKADIA is listed as a director at Sheetal Manufacturing Company, with offices at Bandra Kurla Complex, Antwerp and Hong Kong.

» KUNAL SHAH: Mumbai Mirror was unable to ascertain the particulars of Kunal Shah’s ties to the industry.

Specifics of accounts held by these traders were unavailable in the ICIJ data trove.

WHY DO OVER 200 ACCOUNTS SHOW ZERO BALANCE?

R Vaidyanathan, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and a member of the policy think tank NITI Aayog, prepared a report in 2008 on black money, along with the present National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and two others. It eventually led to the Supreme Court setting up a Special Investigating Team to monitor recovery of money stashed away in tax havens.Prof Vaidyanathan discussed the repercussions of the investigation with Mumbai Mirror

Are you surprised that so many accounts had zero balance?

-It is not surprising at all. This bank data is for 2006-2007. Much of Indian Swiss bank accounts were emptied out after Germany, in its efforts to recover black money held by Germans, began to take action against UBS Bank of Switzerland in 2007 and LGT Bank of Liechtenstein. Other nations like Finland, Sweden, and Norway too followed suit. This must have alerted Indians to move to other tax havens.

What is the use of this data, which is essentially stolen? How will it help us proceed against those who have taken this money out of the country or even recover it from Swiss banks?

-There is no way we could get it from Swiss authorities through rightful means. Switzerland is an outright rogue nation – the only way to get anything out of them is to arm them, just as the US did; they have sizeable investment – $8/9 billion – in this country. Or we nationalise it

Will India be able to carry such a tough decision of nationalising through?

-If that is not possible, we must bring an ordinance and declare all illegal foreign accounts as national wealth. This should force tax havens to part with monies stashed away with them. An estimated $1.5 trillion is hidden. We must get names really fast because beyond March, 2015 these accounts cannot even be subject to our IT laws as the transaction will go beyond the 7-year limit. – Lakshmi Iyer.

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