The Supreme Court today asked the government whether a Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be constituted to probe the offshore accounts of Indians revealed in the Panama paper leaks. A bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Narasimha to seek instruction on whether a separate SIT can be tasked to probe the Panama Papers leak, besides Multi-Agency Group (MAG) set up by the government to probe into the black money cases. The court asked Narasimha to file the seventh report of MAG within three days and took on record six reports filed in sealed cover with regard to the investigation in the black money cases.
The bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and Justice M M Shantanagoudar, asked the ASG to inform about the decision and posted the matter for hearing in July. At the outset, the ASG said that investigation into the names leaked by a website was not simple and multiple agencies were probing and trying to ascertain the details. “The investigations into such names is still going on and all cases will be thoroughly investigated,” he said, adding that the MAG’s report had a complete chapter on the Panama paper leaks.
Narasimha, while opposing separate investigation, said the probe into these cases were not like normal crime incidents as it involved various aspects, like treaties with foreign countries, agreement for disclosures etc. He said each of the transactions spanned different jurisdictions and may involve multiple entities and individuals for which the probe by MAG was needed. The bench, told advocate M L Sharma who has sought independent probe into the Indian offshore account holders named in Panama paper leaks, “they (multi-agencies) are investigating into the matter and we will see in due course what is the outcome of their investigation”.
The Centre had constituted MAG consisting of officers of the Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Enforcement Directorate and Financial Intelligence Unit to investigate black money cases and is also probing the Panama Paper leaks. The apex court had on March 7 asked the Centre to place before it in a sealed cover all the six reports of MAG after it was informed that sixth report has been completed and the government was prepared to place all reports before the court. The Centre had sought dismissal of the PIL, saying MAG has already been set up to ensure “speedy and coordinated” probe against Indians whose names have figured in the Panama papers.
The reports have already been submitted by MAG to the apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team on black money, led by Justice (Retd) M B Shah, and to a Supreme Court bench hearing the case.
The Centre had on October 3, 2016 informed the court that Rs 8,186 crore, illegally kept in offshore banks by Indians, has been brought under tax ambit despite constraints like non-sharing of information by Swiss authorities.
Seeking dismissal of the PIL, it had said the SIT on black money has been kept informed on regular basis about the development made in the probe. Sharma in his PIL had sought a court-monitored independent probe into the Panama papers leak which contained an unprecedented amount of information, including more than 11 million documents covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions. The petition had alleged that Panama papers included the names of nearly 500 Indians, including celebrities and industrialists, who have allegedly parked funds in offshore accounts in transactions brokered by the law firm.