Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Media

Panama Papers

On 4/4/2016 International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Indian Express and Suddeutsche Zeitung made public many documents, around 11.5 million, related to firms registered in Panama.
Mossack Fonseca is a law firm in Panama. Documents of Mossack Fonseca that have become public have resulted in problems for those who figure in them. Ramon Fonseca, founding partner, said his company was hacked by servers abroad. He said nobody is talking of the hack and that is the only crime committed.
Amitabh Bachchan was linked to four companies as director. Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd in British Virgin Islands, Lady Shipping Ltd, Treasure Shipping Ltd and Tramp Shipping Ltd in Bahamas. One document showed Amitabh Bachchan resigned from Tramp Shipping Ltd in September 1997.
Amitabh Bachchan said he was not Director in the four companies. His statement said “I do not know any of the companies referred to by Indian Express – Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd, Lady Shipping Ltd, Treasure Shipping Ltd and Tramp Shipping Ltd. I have never been a director of any of the above stated companies. It is possible that my name has been misused.
I have paid all my taxes including on monies spent by me overseas. Monies I have remitted overseas have been in compliance with law, including remittances through LRS, after paying Indian taxes. In any event, the news report in Indian Express does not even suggest any illegality on my part.”
Aishwarya Rai, her father Krishna Rai, mother Vrinda Rai and brother Aditya Rai were shown as directors in Amic Partners Limited in British Virgin Islands. The company was registered on 28/10/2004 and wound up on 30/4/2009. Aishwarya Rai was director from 14/5/2005 to 18/6/2005. After that she continued as shareholder. Aishwarya Rai’s media advisor Archana Sadanand said all information is totally untrue and false.
Harish Salve did not appear on any TV channel. There was no mention of any journalist trying to get in touch with him for his comment.
Vinod Adani was mentioned as elder brother of Gautam Adani, who is close to Narendra Modi. Adani Group issued a statement. “Mr. Vinod Adani who is the elder brother of Mr. Gautam Adani has been a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) for about 30 years and has his own established business interests outside India.
It is strange that Mr. Gautam Adani’s name in mentioned in the headline though he is not the account holder and the story actually pertains to Indians having not legitimate bank accounts abroad. This is a deliberate attempt to draw Mr. Gautam Adani’s name, not just to mislead the readers at large but mischievously sensationalising the matter.”

Ian Cameron, father of David Cameron, had some shares in a company. David Cameron said he sold the shares he inherited and paid tax on them in January 2010, five months before he became Prime Minister.
Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunlaugsson had to resign on 5/4/2016 after revelation that his wife owned a firm with claims on Iceland’s collapsed banks. Iceland’s Foreign Minister was in India on a visit from 3 – 9 April. On 5th he had met India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko is in the list. He justified his ownership. He said “Having become president, I stopped participating in the management of my assets, having delegated this responsibility to the respective consulting and law firms.”
Russia said it was a conspiracy against them. Some documents had names of Vladimir Putin’s friends and close associates.
China blocked news of Panama Papers. The names included President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law.
There is no name from USA. Some say it is a CIA plot. May be Americans registered with some other law firm.
In Argentina there was demonstration against Mauricio Macri. He said his father started the company and it shut some years back. It is four months since he became President.
In Panama it is legal to buy companies or set up offshore companies. Those who bought companies there or became Directors in the companies did not break any law in Panama. Some Indians have claimed they are NRIs and what they have done is legal. Some claimed they have permission of RBI. Many companies were bought in British Virgin Islands.
Laws differ from country to country and sometimes within a country. Someone on BBC said secrecy of accounts and firms is allowed in Delaware and New Jersey in USA. That can be one reason why Americans do not figure in Panama Papers.
We have to see whether those who own foreign accounts or companies have defaulted on loans or have gone for corporate or strategic debt restructuring. If yes, the swindlers should be in jail.

Sarabjit and Surjeet

On 26/6/2012 around 7 p.m. news broke out that Sarabjit Singh was to be released as Asif Ali Zardari was to commute his death sentence to life which he had already completed as he was in prison for over 14 years he had spent 22 years in jail. Sarabjit Singh was in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. The news was too good to be true. The decision would have been unpopular in Pakistan.

Ansar Burney, Asma Jehangir and Awaiz Sheikh had tried for Sarabjit’s release. After the news broke out some Maulvis demonstrated outside Lahore Press Club against the release.

There were celebrations in Sarabjit Singh’s family. Markandey Katju, who was out of news for a long time, wrote a letter to Asif Ali Zardari thanking him for the pardon.

Something changed during the night. Around 1 a.m. came the news that Surjeet Singh will be released and not Sarabjit Singh. There was miscommunication. Sarabjit Singh’s family members felt it was a cruel joke. Some said it was a diversionary tactic meant to divert attention from the arrest of Abu Jundal wanted in 26/11 case. Surjeet Singh’s family celebrated at unexpected good news.

This is a lesson for TV channels who get into Breaking News quoting sources. Some channels cancel their regular programmes to run such reports without official word from government.

Khalil Chisti got bail and went to Pakistan. Some hoped Pakistan will release Sarabjit. Pakistan released Surjeet. Previously Pakistan had released Gopal Dass and Kashmir Singh. We do not know how many Indians are in Pakistani jails with no one pleading for their release.

Parsi fertility

On 4/6/2012 Indian Express on page 6 carried a report – Minority Ministry revives funds plan for infertility treatment in Parsi community. The report was repeated on page 7. The editor was perhaps dozing when it was done.

Minority Ministry wanted to provide financial assistance for infertility treatment of Parsi women. Planning Commission had rejected the proposal. Now Minority Ministry has approached Planning Commission again.

It is not for Minority Ministry to increase or decrease population of any community or to tell a community to reverse the trend of late marriages or no marriages. It is for each community to take care of itself. Marriage is a personal choice. Government should stop child marriages and marriages below legal age that take place in many parts of India.

Parsis may be an endangered species in India but not in the world. Many Parsis have migrated to Canada, USA, UK and other countries. There is no threat of Parsis becoming extinct.

There are many Parsi industrialists like Tatas, Godrejs, Wadias who can help fellow Parsis to marry early. Bombay Parsi Panchayat helps Parsi couples with children.

Tribals in Andaman and Nicobar Islands are facing extinction. Minority Ministry can save them by preventing encroachment of their territories.

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