Switching his pitch to black money on day one of the GST regime, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a stern warning to black money hoarders, pointing out that 37,000 shell companies indulging in tax evasion have been detected and more than three lakh firms are under the scanner for suspicious dealings.
He emphasised it would now become more difficult for people stashing illicit funds in Swiss banks once the automatic tax information exchange regime comes into being between India and Switzerland.
Modi said his government was committed to taking even tougher action against those helping hide black money, regardless of political implications.
In an hour-long speech at the foundation day function of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the Prime Minister sought to send out a strong message against chartered accountants trying to help entities in black money dealings.
The impact of the government's steps on checking black money is clear from the latest figures of Swiss banks, which show that Indians' money parked there has dipped to a record low, the Prime Minister added.
"The government has cancelled registration of over 1 lakh companies in a single stroke and more than 37,000 shell firms have been identified for strong action," he said.
Referring to November 8, 2016 when the government demonetised old Rs 500 and 1,000 currency notes, Modi said he had heard that after the move, the work of CAs increased and that even many of them cancelled their Diwali holidays.
In a veiled dig at CAs who might have helped entities in dealing with illicit funds post-demonetisation, Modi said he heard that after November 8, CAs had to do a lot of work but not sure how many did work for their clients and how many for the nation.
Modi also wondered why action has only been taken against just 25 CAs for irregularities, while more than 1,400 cases have been pending for many years.
According to him, CAs need to safeguard society's economic health and they have a big responsibility. "Your signature is more powerful than that of the prime minister and the government also believes the accounts signed by you," he said.
Further, he asked CAs that if they know anyone with black money, they should warn them that they would not be spared.