Multi-Agency Group Set Up to Track 500 Indians on Panama Papers List
With the disclosure of over 500 Indian names, including film actors, industrialists and politicians, that used Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore entities, the govt has promised to take action against unlawful accounts. The FM too has warn
New Delhi: The government has constituted a multi-agency group to continuously monitor information arising out of disclosures of more than 500 Indian names that used Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore entities, promising action against unlawful accounts.
“The multi-agency group will comprise various government agencies — the CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes), FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit), FT&TR (Foreign Tax and Tax Research) and RBI (Reserve Bank of India). They will continuously monitor these (accounts) and whichever accounts are found to be unlawful, strict action as per existing laws will be taken,” finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money also said it will investigate the latest disclosures.
Jaitley said PM Narendra Modi had discussed the issue with him and the group had been set up on his advice.
According to a news report in the Indian Express, the Panama Papers show the list includes film actors, industrialists and politicians who have used the law firm to set up firms in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.The report said the list included foundations and trusts and passport details of 234 Indians. German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung had obtained more than 11.5 million documents from an anonymous source that was shared with media worldwide through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ said there could be “legitimate uses for offshore companies” in some cases.
The global list includes political leaders, celebrities and prominent sportspersons. Many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have also announced probe.
“I welcome this investigation. 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,” Jaitley said. SIT chairman MB Shah said it will look into the reports. “Investigations are being carried out. We are going to investigate it (the list) thoroughly.”
Jaitley said this was the fourth batch of names revealed while listing the action taken. “The first related to Liechtenstein accounts against all persons involved in that prosecutions have already been launched,” he said. “Assessment orders have been passed. Then details came in 2011with regard to HSBC account holders — 569 out of those account holders have been traced, 390 were illegal and already 154 sets of prosecutions have been filed.” He said assessment orders have led to the discovery of illegal assets worth around .₹ 6,500 crore.
In 2013, the ICIJ issued a list of 700 persons. Out of these, 434 Indian entities have been traced. Out of these, 184 admitted their relationship with the accounts and the process of passing assessment and prosecuting them is now on, the finance ministry said in a statement. The government had last year passed a stringent black money law that prescribes 10-year imprisonment and effective confiscation of any undeclared foreign assets. It offered a one-time, three-month window for past offenders to come clean. A total of 644 declarations involving undisclosed foreign assets worth .₹ 4,164 crore were made under the law.
The government has already been receiving information from many countries including the British Virgin Islands under the information exchange agreement it has with them.The British Virgin Islands has been popular with Indians looking to park their black money overseas. Information flow from the tax haven has increased after an Indian delegation visited the country last year in January.
It may already have information on some cases under the agreement signed between the two countries last year. The government is negotiating a tax information exchange agreement with Panama.