Melbourne, April 9: 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 is among more than 100 media groups which have investigated the 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm with offices in 35 countries.
The 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 this week.
After Amitabh’s name appeared in the “Panama Papers” leaks, the Congress has demanded the removal of the veteran actor as the brand ambassador of Maharashtra’s tiger preservation campaign.
Amitabh Bachchan is associated with social causes – Tiger Preservation, Polio, Swachh Bharat, TB, Hepatitis B, Diabetes and Family Planning.
According to the report, a consortium that unsuccessfully bid for an Indian Premier League franchise — which included actors Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Karisma Kapoor, industrialist Venugupal Dhoot’s firms and Pune-based realtors Chordia family — all had investments by an offshore company.
Stating this in its latest “Panama Papers” expose, The Indian Express reported that 10 members had entered into a pact to form P-Vision Sports to bid for IPL Pune franchise, in which 15 percent was earmarked for the offshore firm, Obdurate Ltd in British Virgin Islands.
It was shut after failing to win the bid, the newspaper said.
Indian authorities, led by Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan are probing every off-shore company; set up as per orders by PM Modi.
Among others named in the expose, a daughter of an Australian mining billionaire is included.
Earlier, Iceland’s PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson became the first casualty of leaked documents, as he resigned after the Panama Papers showed that the PM’s wife owned an offshore company with big claims on Iceland’s banks.
The banks collapsed as the global financial crisis hit in 2008 and many Icelanders blame politicians for not reining in their debt-fuelled binge and averting a deep recession.
The more than 11.5 million documents, leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, 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.
With a rumbling across the globe form the leaked Panama Papers, British PM David Cameron also came under fire from opponents who accused him of allowing “the super-rich elite” to dodge their taxes.
Mr Cameron’s late father and members of the ruling Conservative Party are listed among clients of Mossack Fonseca.
The Panama base – encompasses the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands – both being British overseas territories, while Jersey or the Isle of Man are British crown dependencies.
More than half of Mossack Fonseca’s 200,000 companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, denies any wrongdoing.
Panama President Juan Carlos Varela’s chief of staff told a news conference that the government could retaliate after France announced it would put the Central American country back on its blacklist of uncooperative tax jurisdictions. The official, Alvaro Aleman, said that no Panamanian company had been found to have committed a crime.
India, Australia and New Zealand are among the nations that have started inquiries into the Panama Papers Expose.
(Ramakrishna VenuGopal with details from agencies)