Panama Papers: IT dept sends 200 info exchange requests

Officials said, while about 192 such requests have already been dispatched to the foreign shores, about a dozen more are in the offing.

Published: 04th September 2016 11:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th September 2016 11:30 AM   |  A+A-

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Widening its probe in the Panama Papers case, the Income Tax department has invoked various tax information exchange treaties and sent about 200 requests in order to obtain banking and other financial data of Indians named in the list.

Officials said, while about 192 such requests have already been dispatched to the foreign shores, about a dozen more are in the offing. The countries to which these references have been made include the United States, the UK, Singapore, nations in the Caribbean islands, Switzerland, British Virgin Islands and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among others.

The department has also got in touch with about 380 entities and individuals named in the list out of which less than 200 have owned up the accounts, while the rest have either disagreed or their whereabouts are not known and are being traced, they said.

In order to get hold of all those who are either refusing to own up or about whom there is little information, the department has invoked information exchange treaties like the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) and similar other protocols and have sent 200 requests across the globe to solicit vital information and data about them.

"What has been sought is the banking and other financial transactions data of those Indians named in the list. The requests carry essential information gathered against such entities based on the work done in this regard by IT investigation wings across the country," they said.

The department, in many cases, is facing non-cooperation and and non-acceptance of accounts by numerous entities as revealed in the Panama Papers and hence had to widen its approach towards the foreign jurisdictions and seek and obtain "good and actionable" information.

"The cases were vetted by the Central Board of Direct Taxes and, after a case was made out, these requests were sent," they said.

A Multi-Agency Group created to probe these cases has already submitted five reports to the government and also to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money in this regard.

The Income Tax department had earlier sent a detailed questionnaire to a number of individuals and entities figuring in the list of those allegedly holding offshore assets in tax havens and is vetting their response.

About 500 Indians figure in the list which includes prominent businessmen, film celebrities and those belonging to lucrative professions.

The government has created a Multi-Agency Group (MAG) of probe agencies to go into these cases, comprising the IT department (CBDT), its foreign tax wing, the RBI, Financial Intelligence Unit and the Enforcement Directorate.

The names were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

While releasing the list, the ICIJ had added a disclaimer that there are also "legitimate uses for offshore companies".

The 'Panama Papers' leaks contain an unprecedented amount of information running into more than 11 million documents covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.

Each transaction spans different jurisdictions and may involve multiple entities and individuals.

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