“But tax laws in the country mandate that the names and details of the proceedings cannot be made public till cases are filed in courts,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Lok Sabha while replying to a question from BJP MP Kirit Somaiya. Jaitley explained that Section 138 of the Income Tax Act bars the proceedings of a case to be made public till a case is filed in court.
Responding to another supplementary, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said the government is looking into the HSBC list as well as The Panama Papers, and various laws, including the one on black money stashed abroad, are being invoked.
Acting on The Panama Papers leak, the I-T department has sent a questionnaire to about 50 individuals and entities that figure on the list of those who allegedly have offshore assets in tax havens. In the questionnaire, the I-T department has sought to know if the person is indeed the same as the one named in the list, which was carried by The Indian Express.
It also seeks to know about vitals of their transactions with law firm Mossack Fonseca. This includes the year of incorporation, their source of income, details of business transactions and whether they declared these investments and transactions to the I-T department and other regulatory bodies like the RBI.
There are about 500 Indians named in the list, including prominent businessmen, film celebrities and politicians.
The government has created a Multi-Agency Group of probe agencies — the I-T department, its foreign tax wing, the RBI, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Enforcement Directorate — to look into the cases.
The Panama Papers leak brought to light 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.
Sinha also said that the Special Investigation Team on black money has made a series of recommendations on the issue.