Rajya Sabha Question Hour session: Has there been a case against offenders?

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Dr KVP Ramachandra Rao: Sir, many countries have initiated actions in view of many information received and leakages such as HSBC cases, ICIJ cases, Panama Paper leaks and Paradise Paper leaks, including Pakistan. Has there been any case registered against the said offenders? If so, may I know the details of the cases?

Piyush Goyal: Sir, in fact, since he has referred to the HSBC account, I will take this opportunity to inform this august House, that HSBC list was released somewhere in the year 2010-11. And from 2011-12 till 2014, the government kept trying to make an effort but was stalled by the Swiss government from getting any information on the ground. The source is a stolen illegal source, and therefore, no information will be given. It is only after this government came in that we sent our revenue secretary to Switzerland. We had high-level discussions with the government of Switzerland and a joint statement was issued on October 15, 2014, by which both sides agreed to share information with each nonstandard and since then we have started getting information on the HSBC accounts from Switzerland.

Chairman: What about the others?

Piyush Goyal: And now we are doing the same process with all countries. …(Interruptions)… We already have an agreement on automatic sharing of information around the world.

Sir, I should look into mention one thing to the honourable members; the good news is that in Switzerland, the case was going on in the Supreme Court. …(Interruptions)…

Piyush Goyal: It has very recently passed a judgement saying that our Indian plea to get the information, even though the data was stolen, was correct; the Supreme Court of Switzerland has ordered the Swiss Government to share with us that data. In about a week or ten days that is going to get formalised.

Chairman: Do you have any information about Panama?

Piyush Goyal: Sir, whichever information they want, I will give it. Sir, with regard to HSBC, the already undisclosed income of Rs84.48 billion has been brought to tax. Of the tax demand of Rs54.47 billion has been raised and a penalty of Rs12.90 billion levied in 164 cases so far. Sir, 199 prosecution complaints have been filed in 84 cases.

As regards Panama papers, it contains details of 426 persons. Investigations are going on in all the cases. So far, 62 invasive actions have been conducted which included search, seizure action in 50 cases and survey action in 12 cases. Criminal prosecution complaints have been filed in 16 cases and in 33 cases notices under Section 10 of the Black Money Act, which also this government brought in, have been issued and as an outcome of these investigations so far, and the investigations continue, undisclosed foreign investments to the tune of Rs15.42 billion have been detected. I have Paradise papers also for you!

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Anand Sharma: Chairman, Sir, first, the minister has tried to give a exhaustive answer. I have one very short observation and then I will quickly put my supplementary. Sir, through you, I want to say that we have many good dishes on our Indian menu, including desserts, but outside, in the Central Hall, members may like to eat jalebi, but jalebi should not be the reply to the questions of the members. That is where the ministers go round and round.

My question is very specific. It is on page 2 of your reply in para 3 and para 4. The Minister has referred to (a) the SIT that was constituted in May 2014 and he just referred to that. It is investigating into cases involving substantial black money/undisclosed income, particularly black money.

Now, we would like to know what information is available with the SIT because in the next para the Minister says that there is no estimation, not even an approximation. Earlier it was said that before May 2014, a staggering amount was given. I am not getting into that. That was the estimation of the black money. Now there is no estimation. That is my first point. So, what is the estimation on which they are acting and related to that.

Chairman: Let the minister reply.

Anand Sharma: Sir, how many treaties were there between the two countries for exchange of information on black money, on money laundering in May 2014 and how many treaties have been signed between then and now? What information have you received through those treaties?

Piyush Goyal: Chairman, at least I am happy that our government gives dessert to the people of India and we don’t give spices and pickles which was being given before 2014. It left such a sour taste in the country’s mind and in the country’s…

Chairman: He said it in a lighter vein.

Piyush Goyal: I too am saying it in a lighter vein. I am feeling sorry for the crores of people who had to suffer spices for all these years against the mithai that our government…

Chairman: Come to the point, minister. It should be a passing reference. One should not go on spending time on it.

Piyush Goyal: I am just giving a response to his humour. I can also be humorous, Sir.

As regards his question about the amount of black money, all such estimates in the past or even at present available are ultimately estimates drawn on other formulations and some reports did come out, out of studies done by NCAER, and, institutions like that which have been to the parliamentary standing committee for its study and its paramount guidance in the matter. These are sensitive issues which, when made public, should be with the concurrence of parliamentary process, which is why we have left it to the parliamentary standing committee to guide us in the matter; but the explosive data that he is talking about, there is no verifiable data that is available anywhere in the country and as I said earlier, if it were available, the government would have cracked down on anybody who had that kind of money. And, with regard to last part of his supplementary about treaties, I would like to submit, honourable Chairman, that treaties, obviously, as I have given example of Switzerland, are there. We have a treaty with Switzerland, but still we are not getting information. And, it is only after efforts we have started getting information.

Edited excerpts from Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, August 7

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