Centre promises action against "unlawful" accounts held abroad

Constitutes multi-agency group to continuously monitor information in the wake of Panama exposé that named 500 people

Updated - September 08, 2016 07:14 pm IST

Published - April 04, 2016 04:28 pm IST - New Delhi

The Union government on Monday declared that action will be taken against “unlawful” accounts held abroad by Indians and constituted a multi-agency group to continuously monitor information in the wake of the exposé that named 500 people, including film actors and industrialists, who have allegedly stashed money in offshore entities.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the issue with him this morning, and on his advice, a group has been set up, which includes officials from the CBDT, RBI and FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit).

“The multi-agency group will comprise various government agencies — the CBDT, FIU, FT&TR (Foreign Tax and Tax Research) and RBI. They will continuously monitor these [accounts] and whichever accounts are found to be unlawful, strict action as per existing laws will be taken,” he told reporters.

Mr. Jaitley comments came on a day the Indian Express carried a report based on leaked documents of a Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is said to feature links of over 500 Indians to offshore firms.

“I welcome this investigation. I think it is a healthy step that these kind of exposes are being made. I have been repeatedly saying that the world is now going to increasingly become more transparent, countries are cooperating with each other and slowly all this information is going to come out as a result of various global initiatives which have been launched,” he said.

SIT to investigate ‘Panama list’

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money on Monday said it would investigate thoroughly the reported secret list of about 500 prominent Indians, including actors, politicians and businessmen, who had allegedly stashed money in offshore entities in tax haven Panama.

“Investigations are being carried out. We are going to investigate it [the list] thoroughly,” SIT Chairman Justice (retd.) M B Shah told PTI.

Vice-chairman of the panel Justice (retd.) Arijit Pasayat said they had asked agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, IT Department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to make an assessment of the list and prepare a report in this regard.

“We want to know what is the truth behind these. The SIT did not have these reports. Maybe, the investigative agencies had. So, once they submit a report to us then we can take the required action,” Mr. Pasayat said.

The list has been brought by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with news publications across the globe, including India, and pertains to offshore investments made by people between 1977 and 2015.

The latest list, after similar ones came in the the past like ‘Swiss leaks’ and the HSBC—list related to Indians, claims it has sourced data in connection to millions of documents which show heads of state, criminals and celebrities using “secret hideaways” in Panama.

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