Update: 4.29 p.m. IST -- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley responded to the global tax evasion expose that has been named "Panama papers leak" saying that "strict action" will be taken against accounts that are found to be "unlawful."
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has himself requested that this matter be investigated. I think its a healthy step that this kind of exposes are being made," Jaitley was quoted as saying by ANI.
Original Story -- A massive leak of data from law firm Mossack Fonseca, based in tax haven Panama, revealed that world leaders like Vladimir Putin's close aides, Nawaz Sharif and others owned properties and off-shore businesses to evade taxes. The list also contains Indian personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and DLF CEO KP Singh.
Almost 11.5 million documents were leaked from the law firm and Panama has said that it would "vigorously cooperate" if legal action is taken in relation to the newly released information. The investigation, which lasted around 12 months, involved 400 journalists belonging to 100 media organisations from 80 countries, Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's close aides, including Sergei Roldugin, have been named in the documents. Roldugin, the Guardian reported, is in control of assets worth $100 million, and has stakes in Russia's biggest TV advertising agency Video International and Bank Rossiya. The documents also revealed that Putin's family has benefitted from deals involving his friends that could not have been possible without his "patronage." Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's sons and daughters have also reportedly have set-up multiple off-shore companies in British Virgin Islands, according to the Hindustan Times.
The investigation began after German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung was contacted by an anonymous source with encrypted data from Mossack Fonseca, which helps the rich set up dummy companies to hide their money. The newspaper examined the documents with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The leaks reveal secret financial transactions dating back to 1977. The documents reveal dealings of almost 140 political figures such as Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as well as sporting and movie stars including Lionel Messi and Jackie Chan, AFP reported.
Almost 500 Indians have also been revealed to have used Mossack Fonseca for setting up off-shore companies. Among the famous Indians named are actors Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vinod Adani, Indiabulls owner Sameer Gehlaut. It also names Dawood Ibrahim's former right-hand man Iqbal Mirchi, who died in 2013, the Indian Express, the ICIJ's Indian partner in the investigation, reported.
The investigative journalism report comes six months after the deadline given to Indians to declare off-shore assets and accounts. Jail term and serious penalties will be levied on those who failed to declare assets.