New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the government to provide more information on money held in offshore accounts to evade taxes in response to a petition seeking the repatriation of such funds.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, also asked the government to explain why criminal cases hadn’t been filed under money-laundering laws against persons named by the government in a reply filed on 2 May. The next hearing will be held on 20 July.
The government should be ordered to begin steps to reclaim around Rs70 trillion held illegally in offshore banks, former law minister Ram Jethmalani said in a petition to the Supreme Court on 21 April.
The government should be directed to ask the banks, especially UBS AG, to freeze unaccounted funds held by Indians in the offshore accounts, Jethmalani said in his petition.
The petitioners didn’t have any political motives or affiliations to any party, Anil Divan, Jethmalani’s advocate, told the court on Monday. The government said in its 2 May reply that the petitioners were affiliated to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and had raised the issue to make political gains in the current elections. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance are the main contenders in the five-phase elections that end on 13 May. Counting will be on 16 May.
The government should learn from a US crackdown on offshore tax evasion, the petitioners had said. UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, avoided US prosecution on 18 February by agreeing to pay $780 million in penalties, admitting it helped hide money in Swiss accounts and strengthening its compliance programmes.
The Indian government has failed to bring back the so-called black money because influential politicians are also involved in storing the funds in the overseas bank accounts, Jethmalani said in the petition.
L.K. Advani, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has promised voters that a new coalition government led by his group would bring back the black money within the first 100 days of its administration, if elected to power, PTI reported on 17 April.