February 13, 2017 1:34:04 am
Following an “administrative assistance” request from India, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration is learnt to have issued notices to luxury art curator Abdul Rashid Mir and his wife Tabasum Mir. According to Swiss media reports, separate notices also named Mir’s companies Cottage Industries Exposition Limited and Mondale SA. As part of its Panama Papers investigation on April 5, 2016, The Indian Express reported how law firm Mossack Fonseca had set up Mir’s company Mondale SA in Panama and Mir opened a bank account with Banque Baring Brothers (Suisse) SA in 2002.
By 2019, India will anyway have access to information on Swiss bank accounts held by all Indian citizens. With the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters coming into effect this year, Switzerland will soon start sharing such information with the countries that have signed the agreement. Established in 1978, Mir’s Cottage Industries Exposition is a “standalone curator of art” that sells “only the very best, handpicked one-of-a-kind collections that is timeless”. Mir made headlines by hosting “dream shopping binges” attended by the likes of Madonna, Murdoch and the Ambanis.
On September 4, 2002, as reported by The Indian Express, Mossack Fonseca incorporated Mondale SA with authorised capital of US$ 10,000, divided into 100 shares, three proxy directors and a secretary. The bearer shares were issued ten days later — on September 14 — and Mir’s son Mujeeb subscribed “as shareholder to the entire authorised share capital of the company” on October 8. On December 2, 2002, Mir senior got a Power of Attorney from Mondale SA to open a bank account with Banque Baring Brothers (Suisse) SA. The account opening documents showed Mujeeb Mir, with a Bangkok address, as the owner of the company’s financial assets while the signature card had Abdul Rashid Mir’s name.
On January 31, 2005, Mujeeb was murdered in Mauritius. Five months later, on July 11, 2005, his parents Abdul Rashid and Tabasum Mir were appointed additional directors in Mondale SA. On July 5, 2007, Abdul Rashid Mir met one “Mr Woernle of Banque Baring Brothers Sturdza S.A, Geneva, Switzerland. to cancel, with immediate effect, the discretionary management power granted to the bank over the company’s account with the bank.”
In March 2011, Mondale SA replaced Geneva-based law firm Secretan Troyanov with stSwiss LLC, Geneva, as its administrator. The last available record of the company was on January 15 when it paid the annual fees to the ministry of Economy and Finance, Panama. Responding to queries from The Indian Express, Tabasum Mir had said: “I am a resident citizen of India and Abdul Rashid Mir is an NRI. Neither he nor I have ever held any stake in or any control of Mondale SA which was incorporated and controlled by a trust founded by late Mujib Mir who almost his entire life was an NRI. After his unfortunate death in 2005, the trustees dissolved the Trust and distributed the proceeds amongst his family members who have fully disclosed the benefit so received by them to the concerned GOI authorities.”
Mirs will now have to name a Swiss representative to receive the notices within 10 days. They can appeal against the Swiss authority’s final decision on sharing financial information with India.
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