Pranab mum on black money

Pranab mum on black money

On the one hand the minister claimed the government had nothing to hide and on the other, he pleaded government’s helplessness in disclosing the information in the absence of a legal framework.

Addressing a press conference here, Mukherjee announced a five-pronged strategy for repatriating illicit money kept abroad.  The strategy comprises joining the global crusade against black money, creating an appropriate legislative framework, setting up institutions for dealing with illicit funds, developing systems for implementation and imparting skills for effective action.

Making it clear that India cannot violate secrecy laws, the minister said: “Let us understand the issue. No information can be made available unless there is a legal framework. No sovereign country is going to share information unless there is a legal framework.”

Mukherjee, however, said: “There is a way. As and when Income Tax Authorities will be in a position to prosecute cases against tax evaders, you will come to know.” The government’s explanation over the black money issue comes in the wake of the Supreme Court quizzing it on why the details were not being brought out.

Admitting that there were no clear estimates about black money, he said: “Even I have no intention or authority of knowing the names (of those who have stashed black money abroad). The Income Tax officers have statutory powers under which they perform their duties and they are outside the purview of the administrative control of the ministry.”

The different estimates, like the one by the BJP that put the amount between $500 bn and $1400 bn and an international estimate of $462 bn, are in his view based on “unverifiable assumptions and approximations”.

The government has now constituted a multi-disciplinary committee to get studies conducted to estimate the quantum of illicit funds. It has also amended pacts with 23 countries to get information from banks. Information regarding details of payments received by Indian citizens in several countries were beginning to come from treaty partners, Mukherjee said.

He parried questions on whether the government would ban Participatory Notes, an instrument widely suspected of being used for tax evasion.

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