Jaitley promises inquiry

The question is not about names but evidences that we need, says Finance Minister

February 09, 2015 11:28 am | Updated November 17, 2021 02:39 am IST - New Delhi

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday that the Income Tax Department would investigate to find out whether any of the accounts held by Indians named in the expose had black money.

‘I-T dept. will check source of money in accounts’

Hours after The Indian Express, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, released the names of 1,195 Indians with accounts in HSBC’s Swiss banking arm, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday that the Income Tax Department would investigate to find out whether any of the accounts had black money.

“Some new names have been revealed, whose veracity will be checked by the authorities. The question is not about names but evidence that we need,” the Minister said. However, Mr. Jaitley said many of the names had already been known to the government.

The total balance in these accounts is reported to be Rs. 25,420 crore, nearly five times the amount already under investigation. In 2011, French authorities gave the Indian government a list of 628 Indians who held accounts in HSBC’s Swiss banking arm in Geneva. Of these, 428 were found to be actionable cases. A release from the Finance Ministry said on Monday that as of December 31, 2014, assessments had been completed in respect of 128 cases, and 60 prosecutions had been launched for wilful attempt to evade taxes. “Necessary investigation, as per law, will be taken up in all the new cases expeditiously,” the release said.

The HSBC list is part of a global collaboration which saw 140 journalists go through the list of Swiss bank account holders obtained by Le Monde, a Paris-based newspaper. The list included the names of several corporate heads, politicians and NRIs.

Not all these accounts can be said to hold black money however, as The Indian Express clarified, and some of the names may be legitimate account holders. It said the report was published “at a time when undeclared wealth is an important part of political discourse, involving the government, the Supreme Court and the central bank.”

Reacting to the news earlier in the day, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal demanded that the BJP government act against HSBC officials. In a number of tweets, Mr. Kejriwal said: “Why doesn’t BJP government act against HSBC officials? They will spill the beans. U.S. did precisely that.”

Mr. Kejriwal also raised the question of inaction on the part of the Congress earlier, and of the BJP now, in probing such accounts because “some of these people claim to have both the BJP and the Congress in their pockets.”

Meanwhile, a Congress spokesperson said the matter should be investigated and action taken against whoever was found to have stashed away black money abroad.

The Communist Party of India also urged the government to take strict action.

“Many accountholders are very closely associated with the former UPA and present NDA governments. It is also important to recall here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised during the general election to unearth the black money and transfer from the confiscated amount Rs. 15 lakh to each family,” it said.

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