FIUs approached to track "terror financing" by Hassan Ali

Agencies like the ED, I-T department and those under the Home Ministry have chosen to obtain the data from foreign FIUs, bypassing the usual route of obtaining information from existing tax exchange treaties, to expedite the receipt of information on Khan since he has been charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The agencies have approached the Brussels based international body 'Egmont Group' through the Financial Intelligence Unit of India, sources said. India joined the world body in 1995. The information has been sought from FIUs like Money Laundering Reporting Office (Switzerland), Anti Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit (United Arab Emirates), Financial Intelligence Centre (South Africa)and Serious Organised Crime Agency (United Kingdom) among others.

Getting new Letters Rogatories (LRs) issued to various countries is a time taking effort, they said. The 'Egmont group' was chosen as some of its clauses are extremely favourable to India in obtaining 'fast' and 'specific' information on terror financing and money laundering instances worldwide. Even the exchange of information takes place over a secure web link, they said.

"The exchange of information between FIUs (under Egmont group) should take place as informally and as rapidly as possible and with no excessive formal prerequisites, while guaranteeing protection of privacy and confidentiality of the shared data," the Egmont charter specifies.

Khan is presently under ED custody and the agency had told the apex court that it was in possession of incriminating evidence against Khan showing that he has stashed huge black money in various banks abroad. It had alleged that Khan had withdrawn about 60,000 dollars from a Swiss bank and cited communications from Swiss official sources to back its allegation.

The request has been sent to the Legal Working Group of the 'Egmont Group' which deals with such requests of member countries. Under the 'Egmont' charter, any request by a member country should be shared in a time-bound manner, which is not a clause in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) or any other tax information exchange treaty.

"If necessary, the requesting FIU should indicate the time by which it needs to receive an answer. Where a request is marked 'urgent' or a deadline is indicated, the reasons for the urgency or deadline should be explained," the Egmont charter mandates.

The probe agencies, are expecting information on terror financing and money laundering in their probe against Khan and his associates within this week, sources said.

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