Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who returned from his five-day Belgium-US-Saudi Arabia official trip on the intermediate night of April 3-4, has sought the first report on The Panama Papers within 15 days of it having appeared in The Indian Express on April 4.
According to a senior government functionary, the Prime Minister called a top official in his office on the morning of April 4 and made three specific observations.
“The Prime Minister had returned 1.30 am early morning on April 4. He called the official around 7-7.30 am to express his concerns about the report and was quite clear in his mind that the issue be probed quickly. He was certain that the matter should not be referred to the Special Investigation Team on black money. Instead, it should be looked at by a small group of domain experts. Last, he wanted to be briefed about the issue at the earliest,” the functionary said.
The Prime Minister was of the view that the SIT may take its own time to study the offshore entity route and arrive at conclusions.
Further, it may not have the expertise to deal with the Prime Minister asks for first report on Panama Papers companies in 15 days complexities of the modus operandi adopted by individuals who would have set up or acquired offshore entities in tax havens for illegal purposes.
The functionary further said that the first two directions of the Prime Minister have been already acted upon. “He wanted to understand the whole issue better. Hence he sought an interim report within 15 days of setting up the multi-disciplinary committee,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had on April 4 said that a committee has been set up with members from different agencies – the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Foreign Tax and Tax Research division and the investigative unit of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, and the Reserve Bank of India. The multi-agency group held its first meeting on April 7.
As many as 500 names of Indians figure in The Panama Papers as having links with offshore companies set up law firm Mossack Fonseca in tax havens across the world, an ongoing investigation by The Indian Express has revealed.