Contributed by Jim Hayes
The controversial Adani empire is set to face the High Court in Delhi (India) on 25 October, over allegations that companies have been used to over invoice power equipment and overprice fuel imports.
A case has been lodged by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Common Cause, using a report by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which outlines how the practice was carried out, to transfer money overseas, through a practice known as price transference. With this, companies are registered overseas, in order to create a conduit that channels hidden money, often to a tax free haven, for the purpose of avoiding tax.
Support from influential politcal figures has proved to be insufficient to avoid investigation, in the wake of the controversy surrounding a series of articles by journalist and editor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta that indicated corrupt practices, which were published in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). He was sacked after the publication was threatened with legal action by Adani. This has created quite a stir.
Meanwhile here in Australia a Flour Corners program has exposed Adani’s use of the Virgin Islands as a tax haven.
In the program, it was revealed that Australia has been promised a $22 billion windfall in taxes and mining royalties over the life of the Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. This is supposed to have played a big part in getting the support of both the Australian and Queensland governments.
But experts, the program suggested, say that by creating a web of companies and trusts behind owned assets in Australia, Adani has created the means to minimise the tax that must be paid.
“Absolutely, Adani has put in place multiple ways in which they can minimise the amount of tax they pay in Australia, and maximise the amount of profits if they choose in Caribbean tax havens,” Adam Walters, research director at the consultancy Energy and Resource Insights, told Four Corners.
Adani Group’s assets in Australia include the Abbott Point Coal Terminal near Mackay in Queensland, a terminal expansion project it has approval to undertake at Abbott Point, and a planned railway line of nearly 400 kilometres, linking the port to the Carmichael mine.
Recent filings in Singapore show that an Adani company, is registered in the British Virgin Islands, which means that this is the second tax free haven that Adani has been associated with. The other is the Cayman Islands.
The association with the Cayman Islands is through a company registered there called Atulya Resources. There is another company behind this, registered in the other tax haven, indicating the construction of a deliberate creation of a hidden path to avoid paying taxes.
The information from Singapore reveals that Atulya Resources is owned by a series of companies, controlled by Vinod Adani, also known as Vinod Shantilal Adani or Vinod Shah. They are ARFT Holding Limited, AFRT Holding Limited and Atulya Resources Family Trust. Vinod is the older brother of Gautam Adani.
None of this has apparently been reported to Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) as is required by law.
This raises potent questions as to why Adani keeps on getting the green light to go ahead.
One would be forgiven for assuming that the murky practices of the Adani companies would indicate that they are unfit entities to be provided with special dispensation to operate in Australia, ands much less qualify for government handouts. But it seems, just like in India, there is no problem with this at the government level. The Adanis have been accused of being prasctioners of croney capitalism in a number of countries. It seems this may be true in Australia as well.
For example, this opaque structure is behind the rail and port project, for which Adani has been offered $1 billion loan to help with construction costs. Vinod is also a major owner of the Carmichael mine. The there are the free junkets provided to politicians and other officials and the personal gifts.
By all appearances, there is a connection with the pending case in India, at least in terms of the elaborate preparations made to launder money to avoid tax obligations.
It all adds weight to accusations of a level of official corruption that would surprise most Australians. We need to know the whole of the truth.