Bengaluru: Industrialist Vijay Mallya, who has been declared a wilful defaulter by Indian banks, figures in the offshore leaks by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), whose Panama Papers have rocked the world in the last few days
Details accessed from the ICIJ website showed a British Virgin Islands firm – Venture New Holding Limited – which has been operational from February 15, 2006, is linked directly to Vijay Mallya, and not to any of his companies.
Tax haven entities of Mallya, a non-resident Indian, have been in focus after TOI reported the Karnataka high court observations in January 2014 that “Mallya had not come to the court with clean hands” in reference to a possible diversion of Rs 4,000 crore to a subsidiary in British Virgin Islands.
The mention in the latest offshore leaks comes even as state-owned banks are battling to recover more than Rs 9,000 crore of unpaid loans from Mallya, who soaked up public debt for his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
The operations of Venture New Holding were carried out from 3 Vittal Mallya Road in Bengaluru, which is Mallya’s residential address. His offshore has a direct link to a firm named Porticullus Trust Net, which, according to ICIJ, is a ‘one-stop solution’ for the setting up of offshore accounts. Portcullis Trust Net has its origins in Cook Islands – an island group in South Pacific. And, protecting Mallya’s identity until the leaks was Sharecorp Limited, which operated as a nominee shareholder.
Nominee shareholders, experts point out, are third-party firms not related to the client operating the offshore firm and are introduced to uphold client secrecy. Generally, there is a legal document dealing with various transaction agreements, among other arrangements, between the firms, all kept confidential.
Sharecorp Limited has been operating as nominee shareholder of several other firms, including many offshore firms operated by Indians. There have also been reports of UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) having shared information about Venture New Holding, among other offshore companies Mallya may be operating. It is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Board of India.