Black money list fails to impress; govt links naming to wrongdoing

27 October 2014

The central government today released eight names, which included Pradip Burman (former director, Dabur India Limited) and Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhiya (chief promoter of Rajkot-based Shreeji Trading Company) besides Goa-based mining company Timblo Private Limited and its five directors, against whom it has started prosecution for allegedly stashing black money in foreign banks.

The 10-page additional affidavit, filed days after criticism that the government was shying away from revealing names, however, did not name any politician, either from the opposition or the ruling party.

In its affidavit, the government also submitted that it cannot disclose all the information and names of account holders in overseas banks, received from foreign countries, unless there is a "prima facie" evidence of wrongdoing for launching prosecution for tax evasion.

"The government is committed to disclose names of persons holding illegal money abroad. However, every account held by an Indian in a foreign country may not be illegal and the fundamental right of citizens to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be ignored and has been recognised by this court," it said, adding the names and information/ documents cannot be disclosed even under a proceedings under Article 32(1) of the Constitution.

The affidavit stated that Burman's name was received from French authorities while the names of Lodhiya and others were received from "other countries."

The Burmans, promoters of Dabur India, however, said the account complied with all legal requirements.

"We wish to state that this account was opened when he (Pradip) was an NRI, and was legally allowed to open this account," a Dabur spokesperson said in a statement.

"We have followed all the laws and the complete details regarding the account have been voluntarily, and as per law, filed with the Income Tax Department, and appropriate taxes paid, wherever applicable," he added.

Lodhiya denied having a Swiss bank account. "We have already declared in the income tax and there is nothing...We don't have any Swiss account that is the only thing which I can say," he said.

While the Goa mining firm Timblo Private Limited and its directors Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S Timblo, Rohan S Timblo, Anna C Timblo and Mallika R Timblo were named in the list, it was not clear whether the account holder is the company or its directors.
Radha Timblo declined to comment on her name being mentioned in the affidavit, saying she has to first study it before commenting.

The affidavit, meanwhile, promised to disclose more names of black money holders who have come under its scanner.

The government said various tax agreements authorise disclosure of information in public court proceedings that are consequent to establishing of tax evasion and thus in all cases of tax evasion where a complaint / prosecution is filed, the names / information / documents will be made public.

"Several more cases are under process and the names of persons prosecuted will become public in due course. The SIT will also be kept informed about the outcome of the investigations," it added.

"There is absolutely no intention on the part of the government to withhold information, including names of persons who have stashed black money abroad, but only to seek certain clarification that will enable the government to enter into agreements with other countries under which information relating to unaccounted money lying abroad can be obtained," it said.

"The information received under these tax treaties and agreements will be disclosed after following the due process of law, in all cases where evasion of tax is established. The intention of the present government is clear and unambiguous.''

"The government is keen to unearth black money held abroad and for that purpose it will use all diplomatic and legal means and also all investigating agencies to obtain information that can assist in such unearthing," the affidavit said.

The government also told the Supreme Court that the Swiss government has indicated its willingness to provide information even on "stolen data" containing names of Indians who had allegedly stashed black money in banks there.

The government said the "development" is very significant as the Swiss government had refused to provide any information regarding it.

"Switzerland has indicated willingness to provide information in respect of cases where investigations have been carried out by the IT Department independently from what Swiss government considers as stolen data. This development is very significant because there are several cases of account holders which were investigated by the Department independently.

"Earlier the Swiss government had not agreed to provide any information in such cases on the ground that these were stolen data and have been obtained in breach of Swiss law," it said in its affidavit.

The government said the Swiss Federal Tax Administration has agreed that their counterpart authority would assist India in obtaining confirmation of genuineness of bank accounts.

"The Swiss authorities have also agreed to provide the requested information in a time bound manner or else indicate the reasons why the cases cannot be answered within the agreed timeline," the government stated in its affidavit.

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