Money stashed abroad
New Delhi, February 9: An investigation by the Intertiol Consortium of Investigative Jourlists (ICIJ) and the Paris based newspaper Le Monde, stretching over many countries into money stashed in HSBC’s Swiss branch, has again kicked off a political storm in India. The controversy is likely to snowball in the coming days with The Indian Express, the Indian participatory in the intertiol jourlistic investigation, publishing a list of 1,195 Indian HSBC clients with Swiss account balances adding up to Rs 25,420 crore. The Indian government’s response has been muted, while representatives of many prominent mes in the list have issued denials.
Top Indian tycoons in this list include Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, resh Goyal, Anuragh Dalmia, Yashovardhan Birla, Chandru Lachhmandas Raheja and several others. Some of the high-profile politicians in this list include former UPA minister Preneet Kaur, Congress ex-MP Annu Tandon, former Maharashtra Chief Minister rayan Rane’s wife Neelam Rane and son Nilesh Rane, late Shiv Se supremo Bal Thackeray’s daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray, and family members of former Congress Union minister Vasant Sathe. There are also mes of several prominent Indian diamond traders, ex-bureaucrats and NRIs. Apart from the political storm this fresh expose will raise, it is likely that the Special Investigative Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court, which is already investigating the details of 628 Swiss accounts held with the HSBC by Indians, will have an extended tenure. Indian tax authorities are already collecting taxes from these 628 persons. The HSBC list was stolen in 2008 and disclosed to the French authorities, who handed over a part of it to the Indian government in 2011. The Indian Express list includes their mes as well in its list of 1,195 Indians. The complete list was obtained by Le Monde from sources in the French government.
Reacting to the report that 1,195 Indians were in the list of clients who held accounts in HSBC bank’s Geneva branch from 2006-2007, Union Fince minister Arun Jaitley said that the government could not proceed on the “Swiss leaks” reports on the basis of some mes. “The details that have come out today (Monday) are the ones we already have. The question is not about mes but evidences that we need. Some new mes have been revealed whose veracity would be checked by authorities,” he said.
The Central government has completed assessment of 350 foreign accounts while tax-evasion proceedings have been initiated against 60 account holders as part of its crackdown on black money, Jaitley revealed.
“About 60 prosecutions have so far been launched for wilful attempt to evade taxes [S/276C(1)] and failure to furnish accounts and documents etc [S/276D]. Show Cause Notices before launching prosecutions have been issued in a large number of other cases wherein further action is underway,” the fince ministry said in a release here.
“Income Tax department is already in touch with the whistle blower who apparently brought out the mes of persons holding undisclosed bank accounts in HSBC, Switzerland,” the ministry said. “He has been requested to share information available with him in regard to undisclosed bank accounts of Indians in HSBC, Switzerland and other destitions. His response is awaited,” it added.
Meanwhile, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal on Monday urged the government to act against HSBC Bank to unearth details of Indians holding black money abroad while BJP’s Kiran Bedi called it “stolen” money.
“Why doesn’t the BJP government act against HSBC officials? They will spill the beans. (The) US did precisely that,” former Delhi chief minister Kejriwal tweeted. He added: “But (the) bigger question is - what did first (the) Congress and now the BJP do? Nothing? Why?”
Kiran Bedi, the Bharatiya Jata Party’s chief ministerial nominee in Delhi, said in a tweet: “Truly crimil, inhuman when poor man’s money is stolen. This has caused huge gap between haves and have nots.
She said The Indian Express disclosure was “evidence of where our tiol wealth, meant for infrastructure (and) tion building went ... Truly crimil". All involved in HSBC scam must get exemplary punishment.
Some prominent mes in the media report have reportedly denied having the Swiss bank accounts.
A Reliance Industries spokesperson said: “Neither Reliance Industries nor Mr Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate bank accounts anywhere in the world.” Similarly, a spokesperson for Anil Ambani said: “Mr Ambani does not have any HSBC overseas account”.
“There is no black (money)…There is nothing to hide, nothing to worry. (I am) following all regulations and rules,” resh Goyal told reporters.
rayan Rane also denied having any account in Swiss banks by him or any of his family members. “Earlier my me had also come, there is no truth in it. Neither me nor my wife nor my family have any account abroad,” he said.
India has no official estimates of illegal money stashed away overseas, but the unofficial ones range from $466 billion to $1.4 trillion. Agencies