Pandora Papers: Government orders multi-agency probe led by CBDT
The Centre on Monday ordered a multi-agency probe to investigate the revelation made by media organizations, dubbed the "Pandora Papers," about the hidden wealth of global elites, including 380 Indians, in offshore accounts. The multi-agency team would involve officials from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the Enforcement Directorate, the Reserve Bank of India, and the Financial Intelligence Unit. Here are more details.
After the leaks were reported, a statement released by Finance Ministry said the government had taken note of the "Pandora Papers," and relevant agencies would investigate these cases. The Ministry also said that the government would engage with foreign jurisdictions during the probe. "The government will also proactively engage with foreign jurisdictions for obtaining information in respect of relevant taxpayers/entities," it added.
On engagement with foreign jurisdiction during the probe, the government said, "India is also part of an inter-governmental group that ensures collaboration and experience sharing to effectively address tax risks associated with such leaks."
Following previous leaks, such as HSBC, Panama Papers, and Paradise Papers, the government said it has already enacted the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015. "Undisclosed credits of Rs. 20,352 crore approximately (status as on 15.09.2021) have been detected in the investigations carried out in the Panama and Paradise Papers," the Ministry added.
Meanwhile, two former Supreme Court judges who head the government's Special Investigating Team (SIT) on black money have said that "action" will be taken on the "Pandora Papers" revelations. "This is a very important matter for us...The investigation shows what is happening in the country without the knowledge of the so-called experts," SIT Chairperson Justice MB Shah Chairman told The Indian Express.
SIT Vice-Chair Justice Arijit Pasayat said the revelations highlight the challenge posed to the system by tax evaders. He told TIE that he has officially approached the CBDT, asking them what action has been taken or proposed to be taken on the recent leaks. Justice Shah, too, said he would soon write to the government about the offshore assets contained in the Pandora Papers.
Pandora Papers is an offshore data leak exposed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The leak reportedly revealed the assets of over 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders, 300 public officials, among others; which includes as many as 380 Indians. It exposed 14 global corporate firms that had established roughly 29,000 off-the-shelf companies and private trusts in "tax havens".
Notably, several prominent Indians have been named on the "Pandora Paper" leaks. These include cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Reliance ADAG chief Anil Ambani, Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Nirav Modi's sister, actor Jackie Shroff, among others.