Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the government will investigate the new names released by The Indian Express on Monday as part of its investigation with Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into Swissleaks, secret details of accounts in HSBC’s private banking arm.
“We will now approach the French authorities seeking their further cooperation on account holders who have an Indian residency,” Jaitley told The Indian Express.
He declined to comment on individual cases but said that there are “no holy cows” and the government is proceeding in “a systematic and legally correct way.”
The Indian Express investigation has revealed 1,195 Indian HSBC clients, roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the Government in 2011.
The Finance Minister, while elaborating on steps taken for exchange of information on retrieving black money, said that his proposal for automatic exchange of information between India and Switzerland has elicited an “affirmative” response from his Swiss counterpart. He said that the discussion with G-20 countries for automatic exchange and on US domestic laws will enable the forging of global cooperation on the issue and render the “secrecy” regime redundant.
He said Income Tax authorities will complete the assessment of 628 account holders mentioned in the HSBC list available with the government before March 31. Besides, the investigation into all the 54 names in the Liechtenstein black money accounts are over and 60 prosecutions have been launched in tha last three months from the HSBC list.
Meanwhile, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money, which met here today, is set to widen the scope of its probe in view of the new names. SIT vice-chairman Arijit Pasayat, after the two-hour long meeting here, said that though the SIT has not received any information on the new names “through a formal channel”, it will “consider all new cases where there is evidence of black money”.
“If any new names come and whichever way we have authentic information, we will act on it… Our first priority is to complete probe in all cases which are getting time barred by March 31. We are on the right track,” he said after the meeting. Chairman of the SIT M B Shah, who was not present at the meeting, told PTI in Ahmedabad, “Definitely, the scope of investigation will be widened due to the new names. We will have to identify those names and scrutinise them.”
Detailing the progress made with respect to the fresh HSBC list received from French authorities, a statement from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said, “Some of these names (published in The Indian Express newspaper) already figure in the earlier list available with the government. Necessary investigation as per the provisions of law will be taken up in all the new cases, expeditiously.”
Earlier, Jaitley said: “Some additional names have come. Now if those additional names are those of resident Indians who have accounts, a case is called for. If they are foreign citizens or non-residents, then there is a different dimension to it. If names of any resident Indians come in this, which are additional, we’ll surely take them in the purview of our proceedings.”