Indian industrialist Anil Ambani allegedly owns with associates 18 offshore companies with property around the world – despite declaring himself broke.
The allegations about Ambani’s offshore holdings were included in a massive leak of data that links some of the world’s most powerful people to secret stashes of wealth.
Ambani, who is chairman of Reliance Group ADA, told a court in London last year that his net worth is zero. But he was named in the so-called Pandora Papers, which were leaked to leading news organisations on Sunday.
His name appears along with those of Russian President Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Jordan and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
The dump of more than 11.9 million records, amounting to about 2.94 terabytes of data, came five years after the leaked Panama Papers exposed how money was hidden by the wealthy in ways that law enforcement agencies could not detect.
The Pandora Papers claim Ambani has interests in offshore companies in Jersey, the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus, seven of which borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion since they were set up between 2007 and 2010. The London court had said last year that ”there are questions about the extent to which Mr Ambani has any offshore interests, because if so they have not been declared.”
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington, DC-based network of reporters and media organisations, said the files are linked to about 35 current and former national leaders, and more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories. It did not say how the files were obtained, and Reuters could not independently verify the allegations or documents detailed by the consortium.
The documents showed how Ambani and his representatives owned at least 18 offshore companies in Jersey, British Virgin Islands and Cyprus, according to the Indian Express, part of the ICIJ consortium.
Set up between 2007 and 2010, seven of these companies have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion, the report said.
In 2020, following a dispute with three Chinese state-controlled banks, Ambani said his net worth was zero.
An unnamed lawyer, speaking on behalf of Anil Ambani, told India Express, “Our client is a tax resident of India and has made disclosures to Indian authorities as required to be made in compliance with law. All required considerations were taken into account when making disclosures before the London court. The Reliance Group conducts business globally and for legitimate business and regulatory requirements, companies are incorporated in different jurisdictions.”
Ambani did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters seeking comment and the allegations contained in the documents could not be independently verified.
The news reports have been published by the ICIJ and its media partners in the Pandora investigation, including The Washington Post, the BBC, The Guardian, Radio France and the Indian Express.
JORDAN’S KING ABDULLAH
Abdullah amassed about $100m worth of property in the US and the UK through secret companies. DLA Piper, a London law office representing Abdullah, told the ICIJ that the king had “not at any point misused public monies.”
CZECH PRIME MINISTER ANDREJ BABIS
The founder of the Agrofert farming, food, chemicals and media empire allegedly moved $22m through offshore companies to buy an estate on the French Riviera in 2009 while keeping his ownership secret. He denied any wrongdoing.
The Washington Post said Russian Krivonogikh became the owner of a Monaco apartment via an offshore company incorporated on the Caribbean island of Tortola in April 2003 just weeks after she gave birth to a girl. At the time, she was in a secret, years-long relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin and members of his family own four offshore firms, set up as part of the Tarin family’s intended investment in a bank with a Saudi business, the reports said. Tarin told the ICIJ: “The offshore companies mentioned were incorporated as part of the fundraising process for my bank.”
The Guardian said the files provided evidence that South Dakota has almost $360bn in customer assets sitting in trusts, some of it tied to offshore-based people and companies accused of human rights abuses and other wrongdoing. State officials declined to comment.
President Ilham Aliyev and his family have secretly been involved in British property deals worth more than £400m ($542m), according to the BBC. The Aliyevs declined to comment to the BBC.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and six members of his family have been linked to 13 offshore companies, according to the documents. The Kenyattas had not yet responded to requests for comment, it added.
• Mark McCord and Reuters
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This story was updated with editing changes.