How did the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the country’s premier investigative agency, know that black money worth $500 billion is stashed in foreign bank accounts? Through some intelligent detection work? No, just a conscientious reading of news agency reports, it turns out. In reply to a question from BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu, Junior Minister for Finance S S Palanimanickam said the information had been gleaned from a Reuters report on Supreme Court proceedings. The Reuters report, the minister went on to explain, had mentioned a range of $500 billion to $1.4 trillion as a finding of a government panel in 2009 and the CBI Director had taken the “base figure” to be “illustrative of the problem”. So much black money is hidden abroad? Palanimanickam admitted “there is no authentic estimate”. The government is waiting for the results of a study it has commissioned from three think tanks on the subject, which is due in September this year.