Arijit Pasayat, vice-chairman of the SIT on black money, said Saturday that his team was in the initial stages of probing the Panama Papers leak and was ascertaining how many of the entities were illegitimate.
“It is a challenge. First thing is to ascertain how many of these companies are legitimate. Then the next stage of the probe will begin. The verification itself takes a lot of time,” Pasayat said on the sidelines of an ED function.
He added that cross-border transactions pose a challenge, especially with money being parked in tax havens. Since these destinations are not very cooperative in sharing information, he said, the task becomes more difficult.
“These are multi-layered complex transactions. Countries blacklisted by Financial Action Task Force are still uncooperative. But you have to lift the corporate veil some time… Thankfully, due to international pressure, some of the tax havens have begun sharing information. Panama too, we hope, will share information,” he said.
During his speech at the function, Pasayat raised the issue of shell companies. He said, “We had asked registrar of companies for information on the same people being directors in various companies. We were informed that 97,000 people are directors in more than 20 companies. There are 2,000 people who are directors in more than 100 companies. We found small rooms in Kolkata and Delhi which were offices of more than 20 companies.”
Pasayat said that to break through such a maze of companies, coordination between various agencies and sharing of database was important.
ED Director Karnal Singh too raised the issue in his speech. Hinting that various agencies working on the same case do not share information with ED, Singh said, “Every agency thinks it is the prime agency and thus would not like to share information. All agencies have data but don’t share on the pretext of it being misused. Proper checks can be put in place. But not sharing information hampers the probe.”
ED and CBI are probing several cases together, including the AgustaWestland chopper case.
Singh said that the ED had so far attached properties worth over Rs 11,000 crore with Rs 2,000 crore worth attachments being done last year alone.
He, however, raised the issue of the inability of the agency to maintain running businesses, such as factories, after attachment. The agency has sent a proposal to the department of revenue to make separate body for maintaining such properties. Sources said the proposal is being considered by the ministry.