The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money on Thursday pressed for a response from the Centre on its recommendations to curb black money, including a key one related to identifying final beneficial owners of Participatory Notes (P-Notes).
The SIT's stress for a response from the government is despite the Centre making it clear that it will not be pushed into any “knee-jerk” reactions in an area having a large impact on the foreign investment climate. The government had said it would only take a view on the SIT suggestions after consulting with the stock market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Reserve Bank and other institutions.
“We have made several recommendations... We want to know what steps the government is taking on our recommendations,” senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the SIT, pushed for a feedback.
“I cannot say anything now. I have no instructions,” Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, responded.
The Special Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu and comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri however asked the government to respond to SIT's recommendations.
The hearing was based on a PIL filed by senior advocate Ram Jethmalani to bring back India's black money stashed abroad, following which the Supreme Court had set up the SIT led by two former apex court judges, Justices M.B. Shah and Arijit Pasayat.
In its recommendations, the SIT had said that the outstanding value of Offshore Derivative Instruments or P notes at the end of February 2015 stood at Rs. 2.715 lakh crores.
SEBI has further informed that the top five locations of end beneficial owner of ODIs were Cayman Islands, USA, UK, Mauritius and Bermuda.
The SIT said Cayman Islands has the major chunk of outstanding ODIs invested in India, roughly translating to Rs. 85,006 crore. The SIT wondered how Cayman Islands, with a population of less than 55,000, has the capacity to invest Rs. 85,000 crore in India.
The SIT had also ppointed out how the transferrable nature of P notes made it difficult to pin down the “true beneficial owner”.
Other recommendations given by the SIT include proactive detection of creation of shell companies through the Serious Frauds investigation office, deterrent penal action against persons involved and action against Prevention of Money Laundering Act for “trade-based money laundering” and betting in cricket.
“SIT realises that trade based money laundering through mispricing of imports/exports is a major means of taking money out of this country. A strong deterrent action is needed to curb this menace,” the SIT recommendations read.
The SIT also touches on the generation of black money in the education sector and through donations to religious institutions and charities. The SIT had sought the government's response on ways to control such transactions, calling for a specific provision that makes donations in cash punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act as if the person involved is “deemed to be a public servant”.
The SIT informed the court that it would be giving its fourth report by October 7, while adding that “economically delicate” matters being dealt with by it should not be the subject of discussions in public domain.
The court posted the next hearing for October 28.