India sets up multi-agency team to probe Panama Papers

Panama

With 500 Indians being named in leaked ‘Panama Papers’ for alleged offshore holdings, the Indian government formed a multi-agency group to monitor exposes in this regard and vowed to take action against all “unlawful” accounts held abroad.

India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the issue with him and on his advice the group has been set up comprising agencies like CBDT, RBI and FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit). “The multi-agency group will comprise various government agencies — the CBDT, FIU, FT&TR (Foreign Tax and Tax Research) and RBI. They will continuously monitor these (accounts) and whichever accounts are found to be unlawful, strict action as per existing laws will be taken,” Mr Jaitley said.

The leaked documents of a Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca feature links of over 500 Indians to firms and accounts in offshore tax havens. The Indian government had earlier announced measures to curb black money. However, it has not been able to keep a check on black money as promised.

Some prominent names that figure in the list include top political leaders form the world, actors, sportspersons and other celebrities. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, bollywood hero Amitabh Bachchan, Argentine footballer Lionel Messi are some of the well-known names that figured in the list.

Indian Express, which is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), claimed that the list included foundations and trusts and passport details of 234 Indians. However, ICIJ has added a disclaimer that there are also “legitimate uses for offshore companies”.

Hailing the steps taken towards transparency globally, Mr Jaitley said: “I welcome this investigation. I think it is a healthy step that these kind of exposes are being made. I have been repeatedly saying that the world is now going to increasingly become more transparent, countries are cooperating with each other, and slowly all this information is going to come out as a result of various global initiatives which have been launched. “

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