Reacting to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)-Indian Express expose on bank accounts held by Indians in British Virgin Islands (BVI) and other tax havens, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday said an inquiry had been initiated by the authorities against individuals whose names figured in the global media report.
“Yes. We have taken note of the names and inquiries have been put in motion in respect of the names that have been exposed,” he said at a press conference when asked if the government had taken any action on the report, which named 612 Indians having bank accounts in the identified tax havens.
In its worldwide expose, the ICIJ revealed banking details of about 2.5 lakh individuals and entities from over 170 countries, including the 612 from India.
On ‘Cobrapost’ sting operations that alleged facilitation of money laundering means by some officials of the ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and the HDFC Bank, Mr. Chidambaram noted that the Reserve Bank was seriously looking into the matter and stern action would be taken in case of violation of any tax law.
“[The] RBI is seriously looking into the matter…my officers have taken a look at ... sting. They have drawn some conclusions, we are looking into it. If violation is found [with regard to tax laws], stern action will be taken,” he said.
The Minister maintained that on the face of it, as no real money was transacted and no real money laundering deals took place with any real person, there was no violation of provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961. However, some other laws may have been violated and that was being looked into.