Cong questions fairness of Panama Papers probe, drags in Raman Singh
The Panama Papers have revealed that well-known sports promoter and managing director of Twenty First Century Media (TCM) Private Ltd, Lokesh Sharma, has set up two of his companies in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Addressing journalists in Delhi, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh alleged that Sharma has close links with senior BJP leaders, which could hamper the investigation process initiated by the Finance Ministry on the names who have featured in these papers.
Questioning the ability of the Arun Jaitley-led ministry to conduct an impartial probe on the Panama Papers, Ramesh claimed that only a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe would be able to bring the guilty to book.
On Thursday, The Indian Express reported that TCM's subsidiary, Peppermint Management Corp Ltd, and two more entities – Margarita Services Ltd and Mardi Gras Holdings Ltd – of which Sharma is the sole shareholder, are registered in the BVI.
Citing a Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) document, Ramesh said that in 2000, Sharma's company was given a three-year contract for in-stadia advertising for international matches, and the right to sell 35 corporate boxes, for which he could take commission.
Jaitley was then the president of the DDCA, and the Union Law Minister. “I refuse to believe that the antecedents of Sharma was not known to the then-law minister. Therefore, he should recuse himself from any probe involving the names that have come up,” he said.
On 5 April, after The Indian Express published the first list of names of Indians who have set up off-shore entities in tax havens, the government, under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided to constitute a multi-agency group comprising officers from the Central Board of Direct Taxes and its Foreign Tax and Tax Research division, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Reserve Bank of India.
Responding to the formation of such a committee, Ramesh said: “While the structure, domain, reach and authority of this agency is unclear, the announcement is disappointing and inadequate.”
Stressing his point further, Ramesh said that a lot of tax evaders from India are “known friends, well-wishers and ambassadors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, and it would only be fair to hand over the investigation to a Supreme Court-supervised team.
Raman Singh and son under fire
Targeting the government, Ramesh said the Central government ignored the leak of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) done two years ago, wherein they published the name of a certain individual called 'Abhishak Singh'.
Ramesh alleged that Abhishak Singh is in fact BJP MP Abhishek Singh, the son of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who had an off-shore company named Quest Heights Limited registered under his name. He also claimed that the address mentioned under the company's name is same as that mentioned under Raman Singh's name on the Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha website.
Demanding the Chhattisgarh CM's resignation, Ramesh said: “If the Prime Minister of Iceland can resign, why can't he?”