The Foreign Tax and Tax Research (FTTR) division of the Ministry of Finance has sent 91 references to 12 countries, seeking financial and investment details of individuals named in The Panama Papers, first published by The Indian Express after an eight-month investigation in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and Suddeutsche Zeitung.
These references have been sent over the last three months and more are in the process of being dispatched. The Multi-Agency Group, constituted the very day the first list of The Panama Papers was published, picked these 91 references from a masterlist of 297 Indians. The masterlist was prepared on the basis of names published in The Indian Express and from data released subsequently on the ICIJ website.
Of the 297 individuals, 120 were said to have admitted to Income Tax authorities, wholly or partially, that they had incorporated the offshore entities which figured in the data.
The 12 countries to whom the references have been sent are the British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Jersey, Singapore, Seychelles, United States, Switzerland and Cyprus.
Officials said these references have been sent for those who have denied the existence of offshore entities linked to them and have been categorised as ‘’high risk” individuals or those who have admitted to the offshore linkages but have not declared or only partially declared these in their tax returns.
The largest number of references have been dispatched via the FTTR division by Income Tax (Investigation) units in Delhi (25), followed by Mumbai (22) and Hyderabad(16). Other references have been sent from Ahmedabad (9), Kolkata (9), Bengaluru (6) and Pune (4).
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has been informed about this action and till date four status reports have been submitted to it by the Multi-Agency Group. Officials said that while a fortnightly report was being sent to the PMO, they will now be handing in a monthly report on the progress of the probe into The Panama Papers and follow-up action. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money is also being regularly briefed on the progress.
Besides this, as many as 360 summons have been dispatched by the Income Tax authorities in connection with The Panama Papers. This figure is higher than the “action list” of 297 since in many cases, several more individuals have been named as being either shareholders or beneficiary owners of a offshore entity.