500 Indians in Panama Papers leak; SIT on black money to to investigate list
New Delhi: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court to track black money has said that it will probe the alleged list of Indians named in a report alleging that they stashed money in offshore entities including tax haven Panama.
The list of 500 prominent Indian personalities includes actors, politicians and businessmen.
"Investigations are being carried out. We are going to investigate it (the list) thoroughly,” SIT Chairman Justice (retd) M B Shah told PTI.
Asked if the SIT had any information on these names, he said the panel got it today.
”No. We got the information just now,” he said. The Vice Chairman of the panel, Justice (retd) Arijit Pasayat, said they have asked agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, IT Department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to make an assessment of the list and prepare a report in this regard.
"We want to know what is the truth behind these. The SIT did not have these reports. Maybe, the investigative agencies had. So, once they submit a report to us then we can take the required action,” Pasayat said.
The list has been brought by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with news publications across the globe including India and pertains to offshore investments made by Indians between a period of 1977 and 2015.
The latest list, after similar ones came in the the past like ‘Swiss leaks’ and the HSBC-list related to Indians, claims it has sourced data in connection to millions of documents which show heads of state, criminals and celebrities using “secret hideaways” in tax haven country of Panama.
However, ICIJ adds a disclaimer that there are also ”legitimate uses for offshore companies”.
"The Panama papers expose the internal operations of one of the world’s leading firms in incorporation of offshore entities, Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca. The 2.6 terabytes of data that make up the Panama Papers files were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ and more than 100 media partners.
"ICIJ will release the full list of companies and people linked to them in early May,” the ICIJ said on its web portal as it called the leaks “The Panama Papers”.
Official sources said the Income Tax department has "taken cognisance" of the news reports and are "looking into it" as per the directions of the panel.
"Other agencies in the panel will act as and when the data is shared on the SIT platform," they said.
They, however, said some of the entities named in the list are already being investigated by ED and IT Department either by way of their disclosures made to them under the law or by way of intelligence inputs received in the past.
The international organisation said it possesses digital records and documents, emails and invoices to authenticate its claims which talk about multiple personalities and entities from across the globe.
The links published today by ICIJ names at least two people with Indian connections whereas the collaborating newspaper, ‘The Indian Express’, named about a dozen individuals and entities in the case.
The setting up of the SIT on black money was notified by the government in 2014 on the direction of the Supreme Court to look into cases of Indians holding illegal assets overseas.
(With inputs from PTI)