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New Delhi: A ‘multi-agency group’ headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes chairman will monitor investigations into the Pandora Papers case, the Union government said on Monday, October 4.
The group will have representatives from the CBDT – the apex decision making body on income tax matters – Enforcement Directorate, Reserve Bank of India and Financial Intelligence Unit.
The ‘Pandora Papers’ – that uncover financial assets of rich individuals across the world – are a leak of troves of financial records in offshore tax havens obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows, the ICIJ reports.
Names of more than 300 wealthy Indians, including business people, figure in the ‘Pandora Papers’.
Until now, four Indian names have been made public: Reliance ADAG’s Anil Ambani, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, the sister of fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi, and the husband of Biocon founder Kiran Mazumder Shaw. The project’s initial report promises more revelations.
In a statement, the government said it has taken note of this and will engage with foreign countries to access information relevant to the cases.
“With a view to ensure effective investigation in these cases, the Government will also proactively engage with foreign jurisdictions for obtaining information in respect of relevant taxpayers/entities. The Government of India is also part of an Inter-Governmental Group that ensures collaboration and experience sharing to effectively address tax risks associated with such leaks,” the Union government claimed in a press release.
It further said names of only a few Indians (legal entities as well as individuals) have appeared in the media so far.
The government added in the press release that earlier revelations by the ICIJ, on HSBC’s laundering network, the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, had led the government to enact the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 “with an aim to curb black money, or undisclosed foreign assets and income by imposing suitable tax and penalty on such income.”
“Undisclosed credits of Rs. 20,352 crore approximately (status as on 15.09.2021) have been detected in the investigations carried out in the Panama and Paradise Papers,” the government claimed.
The Wire had noted in its initial report on the ICIJ’s curtain-raiser on the project that Indian laws recognise and allow for trusts to be set up in offshore jurisdictions.
As the ICIJ notes, “setting up or benefiting from offshore entities is not itself illegal, and in some cases people may have legitimate reasons, such as security, for doing so”.
But there are indications that future reports could point to notable defaults.
(With PTI inputs)