The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money today decided to widen its probe as new names of Indians with Swiss bank accounts have come up but made it clear that legal action will be taken only after verifying facts.
“Definitely, the scope of investigation will be widened due to the new names. We will have to identify those names and scrutinise them,” SIT Chairman Justice (retd) M B Shah told PTI in Ahmedabad.
He, however, said legal action can be taken against individuals only after verifying the facts and not just on the basis of news reports.
“SIT will first verify the facts. We can’t take action just on the basis of news reports. We will first verify the claims from our side and then take legal action,” he said.
He said, as per the reports published today, there are “some old names, which we already have, and there are some new names of account holders.”
Meanwhile in Delhi, SIT Vice-Chairman Justice (retd) Arijit Pasayat, after holding a meeting of the high-powered panel, said it “will consider all new cases where there is evidence of black money.”
“If any new names come and whichever way we have authentic information, we will act on it,” he said after the over two-hour long meeting where existing cases of this nature were also reviewed.
The new names reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) said their records, which were apparently obtained through leaks from a Geneva-based branch of HSBC bank, show that there are 1,668 Indians on it while the number of actionable cases stands at 1,195 after taking into account duplication and some other factors.
Collectively, these accounts had a balance of USD 4.1 billion (Rs 25,420 crore) till 2007.
“There are some new names in the ICIJ list. But they are not many. It is estimated that this new disclosure and few others which are being tracked by tax sleuths for sometime now will lead to obtaining some 100 new names/cases. Whether they are illegal or not will be the work of investigation,” official sources privy to the developments in SIT said.
The SIT, which has top officers from various regulatory, investigative and enforcement agencies on-board, also reviewed during the meeting those black money and foreign account cases of Indians which will get “time barred” by March 31.
“We will complete probe in all (black money) cases which are getting time barred by March 31. We are on the right track,” Pasayat said.
Sources said as SIT had already solicited information against Indian black money holders from the public and hence publishing of suspected Indian black money holders in a national daily qualifies to be the “first information” in this regard.
“The agencies will now act and verify.” they said.
Sources added that the snoop wings of the Income Tax department, Enforcement Directorate and some other agencies have been asked to gather all possible information on the new names reported today and bring it on the table to be discussed by the SIT during its next meeting.
“The new names will be brought under legal action only if there is any evidence against them. Only having names has not helped in the past and it will not help in the future too,” they said.
Sources said that those against whom legal action has been initiated till now include some corporates, business houses and individuals as the I-T department has completed its probe and filed prosecution complaints against about 60 individuals and entities.
They said the total amount in these accounts is estimated to be to the tune of Rs 1,500-1,600 crore.
Sources said the complaints, under I-T laws, have been filed in various courts of the country as upper limit for prosecution in these cases will expire on March 31 after which any legal action against them could not be carried out as the cases pertain to the period of 2008-2009.
The SIT had said in its last report to the government and the Supreme Court in December 2014 that black money holders cases in HSBC Geneva list will be taken to their logical conclusion soon, a stand reiterated by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today.