Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Every bit of ‘Panama Papers’ being probed: Jaitley

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said every bit of “Panama Papers” which point toward offshore companies set up by more than 500 Indians, will be probed and that people with illegal money stashed abroad “won’t get to sleep” at night now.

“In last three days we have formed a group. We are analysing each and every account to find out what is legal and what is illegal,” Jaitley said in an interview to ETV News Network, referring to the probe ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Those who are having legal accounts, they need not worry and those having illegal accounts won’t get sleep at night,” the finance minister said, adding: “Those people who have kept it illegally, we will try to detect it fully. And I think that soon every thing will be made clear.”

For four days now the media around the world has been carrying stories on people with offshore firms, as part of the expose by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and over 100 global media organisations, dubbed the “Panama Papers”.

It is based on millions of leaked documents of a Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, which helped in setting up these companies. But Indian authorities have also said not every off-shore company opened by an Indian need be illegitimate.

In the interview, the finance minister also sought to clarify what Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan said on the legality of offshore companies opened by Indians. He said such firms can be opened with the central bank’s permission.

“So, I think he (Rajan) must have said it in that reference — that people who have kept the money by taking permission from the RBI is legitimate and who have kept the money by not taking permission of RBI is not legitimate.”

Adding a political twist to the black money issue, Jaitley said while some people were angry with him because the government was strict, some previous regimes kept silent on the issue of illegal money parked abroad.

“Liechtenstein accounts came to light and Congress government didn’t do anything. Complete investigation, assessments and criminal proceedings have now been undertaken against one and all of the accused. Taxes are being collected and criminal proceedings going on,” he said.

He said similar steps were being taken with respect to the information of about the 628 HSBC accounts of Indians. Some 500-525 people have been traced, assessment orders passed and criminal cases filed against 150 persons.

As regards the third round of expose — again by the ICIJ — Jaitley said assessments were being done on that and 52 prosecutions have been filed till date.

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