The BJP today said the Modi government will take “stringent action” against those who have violated the law, following the release of ‘Panama Papers’ featuring alleged links of over 500 Indians to firms and accounts in offshore tax havens.
It also used the occasion to attack Congress, saying the government has taken steps against black money hoarders and the ruling BJP MPs have given affidavits stating they hold no foreign bank accounts, whereas leaders of the opposition party made no such assertion and some of them have in fact been found to be holding bank accounts abroad.
“The government will take stringent action against these people under the law. Those found to have evaded tax will face strict action,” BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
Attacking Congress, he said BJP MPs had given affidavits in Parliament, saying that they have no bank accounts abroad but the top Congress brass refrained from it.
Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched investigation in 43 cases of offshore accounts, including those from the HSBC list and from an earlier ICIJ expose, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today.
The comments came on a day when Jaitley announced a multi-agency probe into a new expose by ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) about offshore tax haven holdings of Indians and other nationals.
Giving details of the action taken by the government following such exposes on earlier occasions, Jaitley said ED has initiated probe in 23 cases of HSBC and 20 cases of the ICIJ expose.
Based on information about 700 Indians provided by ICIJ in 2013, the revenue department identified 434 persons, of which 184 admitted to their dealings with off-shore entities.
“The government authorities have detected credit in the undisclosed foreign accounts of such Indian persons in excess of Rs 2,000 crore. Fifty-two prosecution complaints under the provision of the I-T Act have been filed against offenders so far,” Jaitley said.
With regard to HSBC accounts, the government in 2011 had received information from the French government about 628 Indians holding bank accounts in Switzerland.
“Out of 628 cases, 214 were found not actionable on account of no balance or being non-residents or being non-traceable. Out of the remaining cases, assessments have been completed in 390 cases in which undisclosed income of Rs 5,018 crore and tax demand of Rs 4,584 crore has been raised,” Jaitley said.
Also, the concealment penalty of Rs 1,213 crore has been levied in 157 cases. Besides, 154 prosecution complaints have been filed in HSBC cases, he said.
The government, Jaitley said, is committed to detecting and preventing generation of black money.
“India is also concerned that there are countries in the world which are being used as tax havens because of which all other countries of the world suffer loss of tax,” he added.
The minister said the recent initiative of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) will help India and other countries in checking this practice of tax avoidance through such tax havens.