Govt to probe Panama Papers that lists 500 Indians

RSTV Bureau

Tax adventurism will prove extremely costly: Finance Minister

One of the world’s biggest expose, the Panama Papers leak reveals how the rich are using tax havens to hide their wealth in offshore dealings.

A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents has exposed the secret offshore dealings of several prominent political leaders from around the world. The list also includes about 500 prominent Indians including actors, politicians and businessmen who have allegedly stashed money in offshore entities in tax haven Panama.

The Indian government has promised action while reacting to the newly released documents.

“All unlawful financial holdings abroad will face action,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while welcoming such investigations.

The government has decided to set up a multi-agency group including CBDT and RBI set up to monitor disclosures and take action against tax evaders, revealed Jaitley.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money said it will investigate thoroughly the reported secret list of about 500 prominent Indians.

“Investigations are being carried out. We are going to investigate it (the list) thoroughly,” SIT Chairman Justice (retd) MB Shah told PTI.

The Vice Chairman of the panel, Justice (retd) Arijit Pasayat, said they have asked agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, IT Department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to make an assessment of the list and prepare a report in this regard.

“We want to know what is the truth behind these. The SIT did not have these reports. Maybe, the investigative agencies had. So, once they submit a report to us then we can take the required action,” Pasayat said.

The expose pertains to offshore investments made by Indians between a period of 1977 and 2015.

The vast stash of records was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media worldwide by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

However, ICIJ adds a disclaimer that there are also “legitimate uses for offshore companies”.

“The Panama papers expose the internal operations of one of the world’s leading firms in incorporation of offshore entities, Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca. The 2.6 terabytes of data that make up the Panama Papers files were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ and more than 100 media partners…ICIJ will release the full list of companies and people linked to them in early May,” the ICIJ said on its web portal.

The Panama Papers is said to be the biggest expose, much bigger than Wikileaks and those put out by Edward Snowden.

The documents from around 214,000 offshore entities covering almost 40 years, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.

Twelve current or former heads of state are named in the investigations, including the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine and the king of Saudi Arabia, as well as sporting stars like Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and movie stars like Jackie Chan.

“I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents,” said ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle.

Panama’s government said it had “zero tolerance” for any shady deals, and vowed to “vigorously cooperate” with any legal investigations.

The documents show “banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption,” the ICIJ said on its website.

(With inputs from agencies)