Panama Papers: Supreme Court serves notices on Centre, CBI

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Supreme Court
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has served notices to the Centre and the CBI regarding Indian offshore bank account holders named in the Panama papers. They have to reply to the apex court within four weeks.

Panama Papers, a set of 11 million documents, covering 2.1 lakh companies leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed names of 500 Indians who used their firms to set up offshore entities in tax havens around the world.

Names such as Amitabh Bachchan, to CEOs of HSBC, to DLF Ltd owner KP Singh have been included in the list.

A bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh issued the notices to Centre and the CBI on a petition filed by advocate ML Sharma. Notices were also issued to the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the finance ministry. They have to reply within four weeks to the SC.

After the documents were released, the Indian government made a statement to set up a team to probe suspected tax evasion, but not all offshore accounts are illegal and some have explained that they had previously disclosed all their offshore investments.

Till 2003, according to RBI mandate, it was illegal to set up an offshore entity, but in 2004, RBI allowed Indians to buy shares in overseas firms. A lot of names mentioned in the list have set up offshore companies before 2003. This where lies the heart of the controversy, and the subject to be probed upon.

According to PTI, a Multi Agency Group (MAG) of various investigative agencies has already been formed by the Indian government to probe into the disclosures made in the list. This move was followed by RBI’s decision to seek details of year-wise outward remittances from banks under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) of individuals whose names figure in the files. Income Tax department and RBI are a part of the multi-agency group.