Niira Radia now surfaces in ‘Panama Papers’

Niira Radia, the founder of Vaishnavi Communications, whose taped telephone chats with some prominent people in India around eight years ago, including ministers, journalists and business tycoons became the matter of a probe, has now surfaced in the “Panama Papers” expose.

Her name (appearing as Nira Radia, in the documents investigated, minus the extra ‘i’) is allegedly linked to a company in British Virgin Islands, which her office has denied, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

In the article, as Part 3 of the expose on Indians having alleged offshore links, Radia is said to have figured prominently as a director in the 232 documents pertaining to the company listed in the tax haven, Crownmart International Group.

The list published by the newspaper on Wednesday also has the names of a top business tycoon in Bellary, a prominent industrialist and a chartered accountant — each of whom, which The Indian Express says were contacted for their responses, with many also sharing their versions.

Another article seeks to shows how the world’s largest currency note maker De La Rue had contracted a New Delhi businessman to help bag tenders in India, in return for a 15-percent commission.

The paper identifies the company as Aphra Consultants, linked to Somendra Khosla of New Delhi.

Amid these allegations, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan has said that not every off-shore company opened by an Indian national need be illegitimate, and that this would be the primary task of a probe team in which the central bank has been co-opted.

On Radia, the paper said: “An investigation of these papers shows the existence of one offshore entity owned by Radia, an International Business Company registered in the British Virgin Islands by Mossack Fonseka in 1994 named Crownmart International Group Limited.”

In response, her office said the said entity was set up by her late father Iqbal Narain Menon and that she was not a beneficiary. Also that Radia had disclosed her assets to the authorities in UK and India and that such information was personal and confidential for third parties.

In another article published on Wednesday, the newspaper said the Indian diamond merchants, who were probed earlier for having overseas accounts in Liechtenstein, British Virgin Islands and HSCB, have also surfaced in “Panama Papers”.

Prominent among them are Rosy Blue, one of the largest diamond traders in the world, and Chetan Mehta of the Belgium-based Gembel family.

The global expose has been conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) along with over 100 global media organisations, dubbed the “Panama Papers”, based on millions of documents of a Panama law firm Mossak Fonseca that helped in setting up off-shore entities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already ordered a multi-agency probe team on the expose.


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