The Supreme Court on Monday will hear the plea seeking a Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) investigation into the Panama leak papers, in which many Indian industrialists and celebrities have been named. The petition was filed by Supreme Court advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeking an apex court-monitored probe against the Indian offshore account holders and stock market regulators. A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra was asked to direct the CBI to lodge FIRs and conduct probe into the alleged offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a non-profit organisation based in Washington, obtained a cache of 11.5 million records detailing the offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars.
In India, The ‘Indian Express’ newspaper was part of the investigation and had reported that many Indian industrialists and celebrities, including actors Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, DLF owner K P Singh and Vinod Adani (Gautam Adani’s elder brother), have been named in the documents.
The case is currently being monitored by a multi-probed agency headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman Atulesh Jindal and attended by officials from the investigative unit of the CBDT and its Foreign Tax and Tax Research division, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The group was constituted, on the directions of the Prime Minister, to look into all cases of Indians setting up offshore entities in tax havens. A Munich-based daily, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, was offered the data through an encrypted channel by an anonymous source. The data contained documents from a Panama based law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Founded by Juergen Mossack, the firm has offices across the globe and is among the world’s biggest creators of shell companies.