Panama Papers: I-T dept approaches dozen nations to widen probe

The 'Panama Papers' leaks contain an unprecedented amount of information, including more than 11 million documents covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Updated: July 10, 2016 5:16 pm
British Virgin Islands, taxpayer, panama papers, panama leak, mossack fonseca, offshore accounts, Income Tax department, Indians offshore accounts, exchange of information, India-BVI Tax Information Exchange Agreement, TIEA, Officials said a special wing under the Central Board of Direct Taxes has made multiple requests to their counterparts in foreign nations as part of the I-T department’s tax evasion probe against those named in these leaks.

Faced with resistance in disclosures by those named in the Panama Papers, the Income Tax department has made foreign references to about a dozen countries in order to obtain actionable evidence against such Indian entities.

Officials said a special wing under the Central Board of Direct Taxes has made multiple requests to their counterparts in foreign nations as part of the I-T department’s tax evasion probe against those named in these leaks.

They said that the taxman, in numerous cases in this list, was faced with non-cooperation and and non-acceptance of their accounts as revealed in the Panama papers and hence the department had to approach the foreign jurisdictions including Switzerland, British Virgin Island and the UK among others.

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“The I-T department has approached close to a dozen overseas jurisdictions in order to obtain actionable evidence and legal material to act against those who has been reported to have stashed black money abroad as per the Panama Papers disclosures.

“In many cases, the department has reported, that those named in the list are refusing to be the beneficial owners despite the taxman getting some evidence that they actually are the ones who were involved in creating these assets,” a senior official said.

India has tax treaties with 137 countries at present.

SIT Chairman Justice (retd) M B Shah, in a recent interview to reporters, had said investigating agencies are facing “difficulties” in reaching to the bottom of the matter as they are not getting specific account numbers and people named in the list are also “not disclosing” the details to the taxman.

A Multi-Agency Group created to probe these cases has already submitted four reports to the government and to the Special Investigation Team on black money in this regard.

The department already had sent a detailed questionnaire to a number of individuals and entities figuring in the list of those allegedly holding offshore assets in tax havens.

There are about 500 Indians named in the list which includes prominent businessmen, film celebrities and those belonging to lucrative professions.

The government has created a Multi-Agency Group (MAG) of probe agencies to go into these cases, comprising the I-T department (CBDT), its foreign tax wing, the RBI, Financial Intelligence Unit and the Enforcement Directorate.

The names were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with The Indian Express in India recently.

The ICIJ added a disclaimer that there are also “legitimate uses for offshore companies”.

The ‘Panama Papers’ leaks contain an unprecedented amount of information, including more than 11 million documents covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.

Each transaction spans different jurisdictions and may involve multiple entities and individuals.

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