NEW DELHI: CBI Director A P Singh, who dropped a bombshell on the UPA Government on Monday, when he put a figure to the amount of black money stashed by Indians in tax havens abroad, also hinted that it was lack of political will that was standing in the way of bringing back the huge hoard.
The chief of the investigating agency, who presumably has hands-on experience, pointed out how there is a lack of political will in leading tax haven states to part with information on depositors because they are aware of the extent to which their economies have become “geared to this flow of illegal capitals from the poorer countries.”
Therefore, tracing, freezing, confiscation and repatriation of stolen assets is a legal challenge, a complex process, which requires expertise and political will, he argued.
Making his point, he described how easy it was for criminals to get away with tax evasion:
“All it involves is setting up a few shell companies and them making layered transfers from one account to another in a matter of hours as there are no boundaries in banking transactions.”
As for the investigators, Singh quipped, “each layer has to be peeled by sending an L R (Letter Rogatory) through judicial channels, and obtaining information from each leg of the transaction can take, in many cases, several years”.
He also pointed out that 53 per cent of the countries said to be least corrupt by the Transparency International Index are offshore tax havens, where most of the corrupt money goes. The tax havens include New Zealand, which is ranked as the least corrupt country, Singapore ranked number five and Switzerland number seven, Singh said.
It could be noted that the government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on July 15, 2011, challenging the apex court order on a petition on black money filed by Ram Jethmalani.
The court, on July 4, had constituted a Special Investigation Team to bring back the illegal money stashed away in offshore accounts. It had observed that the government did not seem to have the will to do the same.
Interestingly, the government in its review petition, still pending before the SC, had said that constituting a SIT amounted to judicial over-reach into executive function. Now, the CBI Director is virtually saying that the executive lacks political will to chase the unaccounted money.