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Big B’s Panama Papers Expose’ – rebuttal UNTRUE

Melbourne, April 29: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, named in what has been dubbed the Panama Papers – a massive leak of tax documents on offshore companies and accounts of the rich and the powerful – said that his name may have been “misused”.

Responding to allegations that he had used his star power to evade tax, he said that he is a “law abiding citizen”.

The 73-year-old actor’s brush with the Income Tax Department from 2009 and how his loans were later paid off using offshore entities, otherwise knowledge of the public domain, has now been scrutinised by media with the Expose’.

The Indian Express investigated the 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca and in its report said 500 Indians are among those holding offshore accounts in the tax haven of Panama.

The Express not only named Amitabh Bachchan but also his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai.

Ms Rai Bachchan was director and shareholder of an offshore company, along with members of her family, before it was thought to have been wound up in 2008.

However, both have rejected the documents, saying it was “totally untrue and false”.

Amitabh said in a statement that the matter referred to in the article “is a matter that has been under investigation for the past six to seven years by the Income Tax and Enforcement Departments”.

Amitabh also reiterated that he has no links with any of the offshore shipping companies in which he is supposed to be a director according to the leaked “Panama Papers”, which emerged earlier.

However, it has now emerged that Amitabh’s rejection of claims of ties to off-shore companies is untrue.

Amitabh, accused of owning at least four shipping companies registered in offshore tax havens, ‘participated’ in board meetings of two off-shore companies ‘by telephonic conference’, as fresh report on the Panama Papers reveal.

These new reports upon investigation by The Indian Express contradict Bachchan’s statement.

The Indian Express reported that Sea Bulk Shipping and Tramp Shipping had passed a resolution each on December 12, 1994, in connection with a loan of $1.75 million from Dallah Albaraka Investment Company.

The loan was for Constellation Ship Management for the purchase of all the shares issued by Tramp Shipping and held by Sea Bulk Shipping.

Amitabh is allegedly not only managing director of Tramp and Sea Bulk but also for two other offshore entities – Lady Shipping and Treasure Shipping, the paper had said.

“Both resolutions recorded Bachchan’s participation in board meetings ‘by telephone conference’.

In their certificate of incumbency issued the same day, both companies also recorded Bachchan as director. The companies had the same directors, including Bachchan, and officers,” the report said.

The Panamian leaked documents have caused public outrage over how the world’s rich and powerful are able to stash their wealth and avoid taxes while many people suffer austerity and hardship.

Indian authorities, led by Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan are probing every off-shore company; set up as per orders by PM Modi and notices are being served on those whose names figure in the Panama Papers leaks.

Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha informed that “There has been a series of investigations and it is because of disclosures which we got through HSBC as well as through the International Committee of Journalists and most recent has been the Panama Papers, as finance minister has indicated, notices have already been sent out.”

Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, denies any wrongdoing.

(Ramakrishna VenuGopal with details from agencies)

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