ICIJ-Mauritius leaks: Jindal Steel, GMR Holdings among firms named

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Investments in India through Mauritius have been on the wane, but the tax haven has seen a sizeable amount of funds getting routed through by entities operating or investing in India. The data released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Tuesday showed that as many as 50 entities, or one-fourth of those disclosed in the Mauritius leaks, had India as their only country or one of the countries of activity.

 

After adjusting the data for defunct entities, the share marginally fell to 22 per cent of the total entities disclosed in the Mauritius leaks. Among individual companies, GMR Holdings, Apollo Hospitals, Jindal Steel & Power (Mauritius), Kolte-Patil Developers have been named in the disclosures for their links or transactions with some of these Mauritius-incorporated entities. Apollo Hospitals, Kolte-Patil, and GMR clarified their positions, while email queries sent to other companies didn’t elicit responses at the time of going to press.

 

To be sure, the disclaimer on ICIJ’s website reads: “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 acted improperly”.  The documents procured by ICIJ from the offshore specialist law firm — Conyers Dill & Pearman — formed the basis of the recent findings.

 

In some of the cases, there are instances of complex holding structures. For instantce, in the case of Jindal Steel & Power (Mauritius), the company held shares in another Mauritius entity Panacore Investments until 2014, according to ICIJ’s findings. Panacore Investments ordered four bulk carriers from Chinese shipbuilding companies, at a cost of $27 million each in 2012. Part of the financing came from a loan by Jindal Steel & Power (Mauritius) through Dubai-based Panacore Resources DMCC.

 

For registration of each ship, Panacore Investments owned subsidiaries in Marshall Islands, one for the registration of each ship: Core Ambition, Core Forte, Core Integrity, and Core Vision. Both Panacore and Jindal Steel & Power (Mauritius) did not respond to ICIJ’s queries. Panacore Investments and the other four Marshall Islands-entities were named as subsidiaries in Delhi-based Jindal Steel & Power’s 2014 annual report.

 

Meanwhile, GMR Holdings and Apollo Hospitals are mentioned in the list for a 2013 transaction that involved buying Mayo Mauritius’ stake in AMG Healthcare Destination. The latter was established “to develop, operate, and manage the project hospital at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, Hyderabad”, according to ICIJ’s findings.

 

“The idea behind the joint venture (JV) was to set up a high-end tertiary health care facility near Hyderabad Airport. Things did not take place, according to the expectations of the US partner. The JV company, namely AMG Healthcare Destination, was registered and set up under Indian laws in India. We are unable to comment on Mayo’s investment decisions,” Apollo Hospitals said in its response.

 

A GMR group spokesperson said, “AMG Healthcare Destination was registered and set up under Indian laws in India as a JV company between Apollo Hospitals, Mayo Clinic, and GMR Group. The idea behind the JV was to set up a high-end tertiary health care facility near Hyderabad Airport. Since the subsequent developments did not take place according to expectations of Mayo, they exited the JV in the year 2013-14.” Gopal Sarda, group chief executive officer of Kolte-Patil Developers, clarified that “Kolte-Patil Developers has not raised and/or invested any amount through/in any such Mauritius-based real estate offshore fund as mentioned in your statement.”  While any of the above leaks don’t necessarily indicate impropriety, but gain significance in light of government’s efforts to renegotiate tax treaties with offshore jurisdictions such as Mauritius and Singapore.

 

The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was signed between India and Mauritius in 1982. The pact allowed any Indian company to seek tax residency in Mauritius and thus pay zero capital gains tax. The treaty also made Mauritius a suitable route for foreign funds looking to invest in India.

           

            Money trail
  • ICIJ's Mauritius leaks covered 202 entities
  • Some Indian companies had past linkages 
  • Findings based on over 200,000 documents from Conyers Dill & Pearman 
  • Investigative work involved 54 journalists across 18 countries