Panama Papers: fresh disclosures prompt investigations by Indian authorities
21 June 2018
The fresh release made in the media today under ‘Panama Paper Leaks’ (See: Panama Papers to the fore again: Bachchan, Lionel Messi implicated). has attracted a scrutiny by law enforcement agencies under the aegis of the Multi Agency Group (MAG), that had been constituted for facilitating coordinated and speedy investigation.
According to the finance ministry, the fresh series of Panama Papers disclosures will be effectively addressed within a reasonable time frame.
According to the standard operating procedures for investigatng such cases, examining the information revealed in the media release with the disclosures made by those named in their annual returns of income, particularly in the foreign assets (FA) schedule, foreign remittance details, etc, have to be examined. Subsequently, investigations, if required are carried out.
The Panama Paper leaks were originally revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), on 4 April 2016. On the same day, the Government constituted the MAG, headed by chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), and comprising representatives of the income tax department, enforcement directorate (ED), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Reserve Bank of India.
The original Panama Paper leaks involving 426 persons have been investigated by the income tax authorities and other member agencies of MAG.
Since the database released by ICIJ did not contain any financial details or details of beneficial ownership, these had to be sought from foreign jurisdictions under tax treaties in most cases.
After thorough investigation, involving examination of the disclosures made in the ITRs particularly the FA schedule, residential status, responses to questionnaires issued, responses received from foreign jurisdictions and details of foreign remittances made, 352 cases were found to be non-actionable.
In the remaining 74 cases, actions was taken in 62 cases with searches conducted in 50 cases, and surveys in 12 cases leading to detection of undisclosed foreign investments of approximately Rs1,140 crore.
In 16 cases criminal prosecution complaints have been filed in courts which are at various stages of hearing. In 32 cases notices under section 10 of the Black Money Act have been issued.
Though the investigating agencies faced problems of incomplete data and absence of financial information as well as not very prompt cooperation from other countries, the overall outcome has been very satisfactory, says the government.