The Supreme Court Monday agreed to examine a plea for ordering a CBI investigation against Indian offshore bank account holders named in the Panama Papers, published by The Indian Express after an eight-month investigation in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh issued notices to the Centre and the CBI, seeking their replies within four weeks. The court also issued notices to the Reserve Bank of India and market regulator Sebi on a PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma.
A multi-agency group of various probe agencies has been formed by the government to go into disclosures made in the list, which includes about 500 Indian entities.
The Panama Papers contain 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.
Sharma’s petition has sought a CBI probe against Indian offshore account holders and stock market regulators under the supervision of the Supreme Court. The PIL also asked for directions to the CBI to lodge an FIR and conduct an investigation against the SEBI chairman, his associates and share brokers for alleged offences, including under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The petition has alleged that the Panama Papers include the names of nearly 500 Indians, including celebrities and industrialists, who have allegedly parked funds in offshore accounts in transactions brokered by law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The plea also referred to some of the prominent names on the list, including Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vijay Mallya, DLF owner K P Singh, and the promoters of Apollo Tyres and Indiabulls.
The petition also alleged that these offshore bank accounts and their funds were being protected and allowed in circulation in the Indian stock market through regulators under political protection.