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Tax Havens: Significant progress in probe,sending notices in every case,says FM

The data had come from the Australian taxation office under the Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

Written by Ritu Sarin
New Delhi | July 16, 2013 2:12:24 am

Investigations into companies owned by around 600 Indians in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands,the Cook Islands and Cayman Islands — details first reported by The Indian Express — have made considerable progress,Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Monday.

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The probe,he said,will not be hampered in any manner if the data was originally stolen and later transferred to Indian tax authorities,he added.

“Even if someone whispers in our ears and gives us useful information we will look at it,’’ Chidambaram said. “I am reviewing the progress every fortnight and can say that not a single case will go unpursued. We are sending notices in every case informing people about the information with us and they have to come to us and explain it.’’

NRIs,the finance minister said,were exempt from the exercise and replies had begun to trickle in after receipt of notices in some cases. “Several options’’ were being exercised in the case,he said without elaborating.

After the April 4 expose by The Indian Express and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ),the government had obtained data about the entities,registered by Indians through financial services providers such as Portcullis Trustnet (PTN) of Singapore and the Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL) in the British Virgin Islands.

The data had come from the Australian taxation office under the Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

The Finance Minister had told the media in April that inquiries have been “put into motion’’ on the names and entities reported by The Indian Express. The ICIJ has since released an interactive database containing information about around 100,000 entities set up in the tax havens,but this does not include all the data,incorporation documents and e-mail exchanges with the owners of offshore entities.

The global media probe had covered details of 1.2 lakh offshore entities and trusts belonging to individuals and companies in more than 170 countries,including India.

There are 612 Indians on the list,a majority of whom have set up offshore entities with the help of PTN. The list includes two MPs and several industrialists. The list also includes businessmen who have had a brush with authorities.

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