Hours after the Paradise Papers
leak of financial documents, pointing at possible illegal offshore dealings, the government on Monday swung into action and re-constituted a multi-agency panel led by the chairman of the income tax (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.
Chandra said the officials would examine the returns filed by those named in the leaked papers. “If these transactions are shown in the returns, well and good. If not, further information will be sought and investigation will be carried out,” he added.
About 714 Indians, including politicians, industrialists and celebrities, figure in the documents, suggesting alleged offshore investments and operations. The reports based on these papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveal how two firms, Appleby in Bermuda and Asiaciti Trust in Singapore, helped high-profile individuals and corporations avoid paying taxes by setting up offshore entities. India is ranked 19 in terms of the number of names on the list.
It has been reported that many cases of offshore entities are already on fast-track investigation. “As soon as further information surfaces, swift action will be taken,” the government stated on Monday.
Defaulter businessman Vijay Mallya, corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, actor Amitabh Bachchan, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha and Rajya Sabha member of Parliament (MP) R K Sinha’s names have figured on the list.
The Congress demanded resignations of the Union minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party MP. Jayant Sinha said in a series of tweets that the transactions revealed were not done by him for any “personal purpose”. They were legal, he added. R K Sinha didn’t respond to queries. He showed a handwritten paper to reporters, which stated that he was on maun vrat, a vow of silence, for a week.
Bachchan had earlier said in a blog that he had always cooperated with the "system" and wished to be left alone at this stage of his life.
The multi-agency group is already investigating the “Panama Papers”, a similar leak in 2016 which revealed names of individuals who paid law firm Mossack Fonseca
to set up offshore firms in tax havens around the world.
About 500 Indians figured on that list. Based on investigation in the Panama Papers, of the 426 persons on the list, there were 147 actionable cases and 279 non-actionable cases.
Investigation has led to a detection of undisclosed credits of about Rs 792 crore so far in Panama gate. The I-T department has conducted searches in 35 cases and surveys in 11 cases. In other cases, the persons have been confronted with the evidence during enquiries. Besides, criminal prosecution complaints have been filed in five cases and notices have been sent to seven persons under Section 10 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.