Decoding the link between NuPower's largest shareholder and Panama papers

Photo: NuPower Renewables
The largest shareholder in NuPower Renewables shares an address with an entity named in the Panama Papers, a global exposé of offshore financial dealings that came to light in 2016.

NuPower has been in the news after the allegations of ICICI Bank disbursing a loan to the Videocon group, which had ties with NuPower, started doing the rounds. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate, and the income tax department are investigating the case, which involves allegations of a conflict of interest because NuPower founder Deepak Kochhar’s wife, Chanda Kochhar, heads ICICI Bank. All involved parties have denied impropriety. 

Business Standard examined Registrar of Companies documents, including shareholding patterns and past investors in the company. Some of the largest investors in the company have addresses mentioned in the Panama Papers database. This does not necessarily imply impropriety, but gains significance in the light of allegations surrounding NuPower.

Records as of March 2017 show DH Renewables Holding held 3.2 million shares, equal to a 54.99 per cent stake, in NuPower Renewables. The address listed for the company is Intercontinental Trust, Level 3, Alexander House, 35 Cybercity, Ebene, Mauritius, which finds a mention in the Panama Papers’ list of offshore entities. 

The Panama Papers involved the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) collaborating with over 100 media partners. They collectively went through 11.5 million files leaked from a key Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. It helped expose “the offshore holdings of world political leaders… details of the hidden financial dealings of fraudsters, drug traffickers, billionaires, celebrities…(and)…sports stars,” according to the ICIJ website.

The ICIJ, however, does point out that there may be genuine reasons behind such entities. “There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly,” it said.

Deepak Kochhar said both Firstland and DH Renewables are vehicles used by Accion, (named in company documents as Accion Diversified Strategies Fund SPC). He said they would be best placed to answer queries related to them. 

But queries are not being answered by the entities involved. An email sent to an address on Accion’s website did not elicit a response. Business Standard called twice on their Singapore office number, but these went unanswered. Intercontinental Trust, too, did not respond to either a call placed to their Mauritius office or emails seeking comment. No comments were received from ICICI Bank and Videocon Industries did not respond to the email sent. Videocon Industries Chairman Venugopal Dhoot did not respond to a call and a text message requesting comment.

“The address by itself may not mean anything as multiple entities can share an address in some of these offshore jurisdictions without having any relationship or connection. However, it may be worth examining further in the light of the recent allegations to dispel any doubts,” said J N Gupta, co-founder and managing director of corporate governance advisory Stakeholder Empowerment Services.