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The taxman has turned the spotlight on individuals named in the Paradise Papers leak and reportedly asked about a dozen of them to appear before the Income Tax (I-T) office with their passports. Reportedly, the I-T department has issued a communique asking the concerned persons to disclose whether they have any assets and bank accounts overseas or if they are shareholders of overseas companies. The tax sleuths appear to be on firmer ground while dealing with cases related to the Paradise Papers as compared to the Panama Papers Leak, the Economic Times reported on Monday. According to the report, this is because this time around, the I-T department has had access to information like bank account details. "In case of Panama, the tax department took months to fish out information from various jurisdictions after invoking the treaties and information sharing pacts with respective countries. However, in Paradise, a lot of crucial information is available on a platter....," a source told the financial daily. Speaking to the financial daily, two unnamed sources said that inspecting their passports will reveal the concerned individuals' travel destinations and the number of trips undertaken by them in the past few years. Further, certain offshore banks require copies of their account holders' passports. One of the sources told the financial daily that the I-T department is asking these individuals "whether the Paradise information is accurate" and "whether the accounts were opened or companies formed legally".
The matter, according to the source, is closed if the concerned individuals are able to show that their activities were under the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) liberalised remittance route or via any other authorised channel. However, in case the individuals are unable to substantiate their activities, the source said that the I-T department is "reopening the matter, and the stage is set for penalty or further action".As reported earlier, Tax advisors servicing the 714 Indians named in the vast leak of financial records, dubbed the Paradise Papers, might also find themselves in the tax sleuth's cross-hairs. Individuals on the list are already under the scanner. As reported earlier, hours after the Paradise Papers leak of financial documents, pointing at possible illegal offshore dealings, the government swung into action and re-constituted a multi-agency panel led by the chairman of the I-T department to carry out a probe into it. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has alerted its teams across the country to carry out investigations based on the returns filed by individuals on the list. "We will match the information in the Paradise Papers to ascertain cases of tax evasion," said CBDT Chairman Sushil Chandra, who will also head the multi-agency panel. Besides I-T department officials, the panel comprises representatives of the Enforcement Directorate, the Reserve Bank of India, and the Financial Intelligence Unit. India ranks 19th out of the 180 countries covered under the leaked data in terms of the number of names involved, reported the Indian Express, which first reported on the matter in India. Further, according to the report, 714 Indians find mention in the papers. Writing for the Business Standard, Naveen Wadhwa, the deputy general manager at Taxmann.com, explains what the Paradise Papers reveal: "The papers reveal information on the offshore activities of various high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) and multi-national companies. As per these papers, many offshore companies seem to be 'sham' entities engaged in the practices of tax evasion, tax avoidance, manipulation of the market, money laundering, round tripping, parking black money, and bribing, among other things." The leaked data, obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, as was the case with the Panama Papers, and investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), originates from two firms – Bermuda's Appleby and Singapore's Asiaciti – as well as from 19 tax havens across the world.