Launching a scathing attack at the Congress, the BJP on Sunday accused the party of not taking action against former finance minister P Chidambaram for allegedly failing to disclose foreign assets. Calling it the “Nawaz Sharif moment” of the Congress Party, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, at press conference in New Delhi, said that the alleged financial discrepancies can’t be an overlooked by the party and demanded how the former finance minister forgot to reveal details of his family’s foreign investments. She also asked whether Congress president Rahul Gandhi would investigate the matter. “Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is himself out on bail should come out and tell us if he is going to investigate this case involving one of his leaders,” Sitharaman told reporters on Sunday afternoon.
“Chidambaram didn’t disclose its investments to tax authority, violating Black Money Law, which was brought by Modi govt as part of its drive against black money and to prosecute those Indians who have secretly stashed illicit wealth abroad,” she said.
Levelling allegations against Chidambaram and his family of holding illegal assets, Sitharaman said, “As per the Income Tax estimates, Chidambaram? Family’s illegal assets in 14 countries and 21 foreign bank accounts are expected to be worth three billion dollars.”
BJP chief Amit Shah wondered whether this was the reason the Manmohan Singh government “dragged their feet” on the formation of a Special Investigation Team to probe black money stashed abroad. “This explains why despite Supreme Court’s orders Sonia Gandhi, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh and then FM P Chidambaram dragged their feet on the formation of SIT, one of the first decisions taken by Modi govt, to fight black money! How could they indict their own selves,” Shah tweeted.
Meanwhile, Chidambaram took a swipe at Sitharaman and Amit Shah, reminding them of BJP’s 2014 poll promise to bring back all the black money stashed abroad. In a series of tweets, Chidambaram said: The buzz in Delhi is that Ms Nirmala Sitaraman will be removed as Defence Minister and appointed as lawyer of the Income-tax department. Welcome to the bar, Ms Sitaraman. The president of the richest political party in India is dreaming of billions of dollars! Bring the money back and put Rs 15 lakhs in the account of every Indian as you promised.”
On Friday, the Income Tax Department had filed four criminal complaints against the former UPA minister and members of his family before a special court in Chennai under Section 50 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.
The former minister’s wife Nalini, son Karti and daughter-in-law Srinidhi and a firm linked to Karti (Chess Global) have been accused of allegedly not revealing, either partly or fully, immovable assets worth Rs 5.37 crore, property worth Rs 80 lakh in UK and assets worth Rs 3.28 crore in the US, I-T officials had told news agency PTI on Friday.
The chargesheets claimed that the Chidambaram family as well as the firm – Chess Global Advisory – “did not disclose” these investments to the tax authority in violation of the black money law.
Following the chargesheet, the Chidambaram family on Saturday had put out statements calling the charges against them “baseless allegations”. They claimed that the offshore accounts and investments were duly mentioned in their income tax returns.
PML-N leader and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff was ousted from public office last year following his conviction in the undisclosed foreign assets case. His name cropped in 2016 in the Panama Papers investigation. Shariff was convicted by the Supreme Court in the case and was barred from holding office for life. Members of his family, including his two sons and daughter, were also accused of holding shell companies in the Panama Papers investigation.