The multi-agency group, which was set up by the government to oversee investigations into the Pandora Papers case, has begun cracking down on wealthy Indians named in the inquiry report.
Three entities named in the Pandora Papers have been sought by the Department of Income Tax and more will soon be prosecuted, official sources said.
Samir Thapar of the JCT group, who is also a relative of late Congress leader Satish Sharma, as well as the Hiranandani group, were searched by the Foreign Assets Investigation Unit (FIAU) last month.
FIAU was established last year to investigate cases of undisclosed assets held by Indians overseas as well as cases related to the possession of black money overseas.
FIAU had previously sought family members and associates of Satish Sharma. Officials said that FIAU had obtained credible information on undisclosed foreign assets and black money hidden abroad by wealthy Indians.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in an investigative report released in October 2021 claimed that 380 Indians were on the global elite list who were exposed for siphoning off their wealth through financial dealings sleazy and used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth millions of dollars.
The Pandora Papers revealed that former Union Minister Satish Sharma had several offshore entities and properties in his name. Mr. Sharma had died last year.
At least 10 close relatives of Mr. Sharma, including his wife Sterre Sharma, children and grandchildren are among the beneficiaries of the Jan Zegers Trust established by Mr. Sharma in 1995 in the Cayman Islands.
The Hiranandani Group is also the latest entity to bear the brunt of the income tax department. FIAU searched about 25 premises located in 3 cities – Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai, linked to the Hiranandani group.
Later, a company spokesperson said, “The group has already clarified that the offshore trust/assets held by the family overseas are fully genuine and compliant with all laws. Additionally, all questions authorities are fully dealt with and we assure our full cooperation in the matter.”
A real estate businessman and founder of the Mumbai-based Hiranandani Group, Niranjan Hiranandani and some of his family members were beneficiaries of a trust with assets worth over $60 million, as reported the ICIJ. Pandora Papers shows that Hiranandani was the “standby director” in businesses started by his son Darshan Hiranandani, based in Dubai, British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Mr. Thapar’s name had also surfaced in the Pandora Papers. In particular, JCT Ltd had declared the offshore player as a non-promoter. This offshore entity is registered in the British Virgin Islands, where Mr. Thapar is also the beneficial owner of another company. Offshore player Musk Holdings was established in 2009 and owns a stake in JCT Ltd.
The multi-agency group is headed by the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and has representatives from CBDT, ED, RBI and FIU.
Sources said the multi-agency group had proactively engaged with foreign jurisdictions to obtain information on affected taxpayers as well as entities before launching search operations.