EXACTLY TWO years after the release of the Panama Papers in April 2016, tax authorities in India have revealed that the detection of undisclosed “credits” or income from those named in the global media expose has crossed the Rs 1,000 crore mark. While the last release from the Finance Ministry in November 2017 had put the figure of undisclosed credits arising out of the Panama Papers investigations at Rs 792 crore, an RTI reply to Saurav Das, a journalism student, has shown that it now stands at approximately Rs 1,088 crore.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has also informed Das that investigations into the Paradise Papers are at a preliminary stage. The Paradise Papers, the latest investigation into offshore finances by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) along with other media groups including The Indian Express, were published in November 2017.
CBDT officials, however, told The Indian Express that the first batches of Income Tax notices in connection with the Paradise Papers were dispatched weeks after the expose and that searches and surveys have been conducted in at least three of the cases.
Significantly, the CBDT has also informed the RTI applicant that the detection of undisclosed credits in the 2013 offshore ICIJ-The Indian Express investigation, on Indian account holders, mostly in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has now crossed the Rs 10,000 crore mark. The figure, the CBDT has revealed in its reply to Das dated April 4, currently stands at Rs 11,010 crore.
The 2013 investigation, called “Offshore leaks”, was the first in a series of such investigations done by the ICIJ with media organisations across the globe, and named 612 Indians who had registered offshore entities in tax havens. There are scores of prosecutions in progress in various courts on cases of undisclosed credits based on this investigation. The then UPA government had commenced a probe into these offshore accounts, resulting in the unprecedented detection of undisclosed income.
As reported by The Indian Express on September 9, 2017, following a probe into offshore account holders named in the Panama Papers, 426 account holders were put under scrutiny and 147 of these cases were found to be “actionable”. The CBDT had informed that till November 2017, searches and surveys had been conducted in 46 of these cases and criminal prosecution cases had been filed in five cases so far.