Arun Jaitley on Thursday said the multi-agency group set up to probe offshore accounts disclosed in The Panama Papers and being reported by The Indian Express as part of an ongoing investigation is analysing each and every account and those with illegal holdings will not "get sleep at night".
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said the multi-agency group set up to probe offshore accounts disclosed in The Panama Papers and being reported by The Indian Express as part of an ongoing investigation is analysing each and every account and those with illegal holdings will not “get sleep at night”.
The minister’s comments came as the multi-agency group held its first meeting in New Delhi. Chaired by Central Board of Direct Taxes’ chairman Atulesh Jindal and attended by officials from the investigative unit of the CBDT and its foreign tax and tax research division, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the meeting decided that the probe should focus on the legitimacy of each transaction that has come to light and the legality of the route taken to set up the offshore entities.
“The panel will look into every transaction to see if it is legitimate or illegitimate. The act of investing abroad may not be a crime per se, but the route which was taken for the transaction, whether hawala or evasion of tax in India, needs to be looked into,” a government official said.
The criminal implications of the route of the financial transactions, the official said, needs to be probed. Another official said the finance ministry will sort out names mentioned in The Panama Papers and thereafter communicate with them to seek their responses.
The group was constituted on the directions of the Prime Minister to look into all cases of Indians setting up offshore entities in tax havens after The Indian Express published the first set of names as part of its ongoing investigation in The Panama Papers — more than 11 million documents from the secret files of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm headquartered in Panama known for its factory-like production of offshore companies for its worldwide clientele of the well-heeled.
PTI adds: Jaitley told ETV: “Now these Panama names have came into the limelight. In last three days, we have formed a group. We are analysing each and every account to find which is legal and which is illegal.”
“Those who are having legal accounts, they need not worry and those having illegal accounts won’t get sleep at night,” he said. “Those people who have kept it illegally, we will try to detect it fully. And I think that soon every thing will be made clear.”
Rejecting criticism that the BJP government has not pursued its pre-poll promise of going after black money, the finance minister said, “The people who are angry with me are so, just because I am going very strict.”
Jaitley said that while the Congress-led government did nothing on accounts revealed in the Liechtenstein list, the BJP government has investigated, assessed and undertaken criminal proceedings against one and all the accused.
“Taxes are being collected and criminal proceedings going on,” he said, adding that 500-525 people out of the 628 HSBC accounts have been traced and assessment orders passed. “Criminal cases have been filed against around 150 persons,” he said.