Income tax department is now more actively pursuing names, including Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, in connection with the offshore companies mentioned in the Panama Papers, as per Times of India report.
The report quoting a senior official further said that the tax department has already dispatched a top-level officer to the British Virgin Islands to access information. The British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean is considered to be among several tax havens.
Earlier, Bachchan had made a public statement saying his name had probably been misused.
“I do not know any of the companies referred to by Indian Express—Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd, Lady Shipping Ltd, Treasure Shipping Ltd, and Tramp Shipping Ltd. I have never been a director of any of the above stated companies. It is possible that my name has been misused. I have paid all my taxes including on money spent by me overseas. Money that I have remitted overseas have been in compliance with law, including remittances through Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS), after paying Indian taxes. In any event the news report in Indian Express does not even suggest any illegality on my part,” he had said in a statement.
The income tax department has sent over 260 requests overseas seeking information in connection with its tax evasion probe in the Panama papers leak case.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also initiated investigations in 49 cases to probe the alleged contravention of forex laws by the entities named in this list under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), policy making body of the Income Tax department, has provided data on the status of investigations to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The Panama papers refer to 11.5 million leaked documents published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with details of offshore entities set up by the law firm Mossack Fonseca over 40 years.
Earlier, answering questions over the fate of Panama papers, the government on August 10 said every account named in the leak is being probed but made it clear that nobody would be punished here without a proper process, unlike Pakistan where Nawaz Sharif was removed as prime minister.
“Nobody has ever taken more action than this government on foreign account details which have come,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha while replying to a debate on Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill which was passed by the House later.
Referring to the Panama papers leak, he said “every account” in it is being investigated. “We have a rule of law. We do not have system like the neighbouring country where you remove first and then have a trial,” Jaitley said, clearly referring to Sharif who was ousted last month over the Panama papers leak issue.
Sharif had to resign after the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office and ruled that graft cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama papers scandal. In the wake of that development, questions were raised in India regarding the status of probe in the same issue.
During the reply, Jaitley said tax authorities are conducting investigations and prosecutions are being launched in cases where documents have been received. “We first make our own investigations and on each one of those cases, whether it is Liechtenstein cases or HSBC cases or other cases which have come to the notice or the Panama, in each case, we have been touch with the regular authorities of the country where these accounts are,” he said.
“Prosecutions are being filed wherever documents are coming. Assessment proceedings are being cleared and there is no prohibition on publishing their names once the prosecutions are filed because they are filed in India in open court,” the finance minister said.
Jaitley said names are confidential as long as the matter is under investigation but the confidentiality clause ceases to exist once it reaches court.
Dubbed as ‘Panama Papers’, investigations into vast stash of records from Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist had named several world leaders and celebrities as having money stashed abroad in offshore companies. The leak had surfaced last year.