Home/ Politics / Policy/  Govt names businessmen in black money affidavit

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government on Monday disclosed the names of three people or entities it said had salted away unaccounted-for wealth in illegal foreign bank accounts, but none of them are politicians from the Congress party.

The names have also been in the public domain since 2012, although the fact that they are named in the government’s affidavit to the Supreme Court indicates that the state is ready to file charges against them (or has already done so).

The highly-anticipated revelations—they come in the wake of tantalizing interviews by finance minister Arun Jaitley to TV channels where he said the Congress party would be embarrassed by the names—came as a disappointment to many people, although it is highly likely that there will be more affidavits, and more names revealed in the days to come.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the government named Pradip Burman, a former executive director of Dabur India Ltd; Rajkot-based bullion trader Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhiya, chief promoter of Shreeji Trading Company; and executives from Goa-based miner Timblo Pvt. Ltd.

Five directors of Timblo— Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S. Timblo, Rohan S. Timblo, Anna C. Timblo and Mallika R. Timblo—were named in the affidavit.

In the document, the finance ministry reiterated the government’s position that it can only reveal names of Indians holding bank accounts in foreign countries “after following due process of law, in all cases where evasion of tax is established."

Since the income tax authorities have already launched prosecution against the three, their names were revealed, it said.

In two television interviews this month, finance minister Jaitley said revelations of people holding so-called black money, or untaxed wealth, would likely abash the Congress party. His predecessor P. Chidambaram retorted in another interview that individuals who may have been guilty of transgressions may be embarrassed, and not the Congress, which lost power in the April-May general election.

Prashant Bhushan, a prominent legal activist and member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said he was disappointed at the (disclosure of) relatively innocuous names rather than the more influential and powerful names.

The BJP had, in its victorious election campaign, pledged that it would bring home the wealth hidden in overseas bank accounts by dishonest citizens and punish the guilty.

Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based group that tracks money transfers, said Indians surreptitiously shifted $344 billion overseas between 2002 and 2011, depriving India of vital tax revenues.

“The Union government is committed to take action against people who hold illegal money in foreign bank accounts. The government has started the process of taking actions against such people and none of the defaulters will be spared," said BJP spokesperson Anil Baluni.

On Monday, the Congress asked the government to refrain from “political titillation, press sensationalization and playing games" to target its opponents.

“They are the government. They control ministries and departments. They should act..," spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, describing the BJP’s campaign on the issue of black money as “much ado about nothing."

Congress senior leader Digvijay Singh also attacked Jaitley for his earlier remarks that the Congress would be embarrassed when the names of all those who had stashed away money abroad were made public. “If he has the guts, he should reveal those names," Singh said. Jaitley insisted: “We will disclose only those names against whom we have prosecutable evidence."

The affidavit filed in the Supreme Court said a direction by the apex court asking the government to disclose information and documents received in eight cases where no evidence of evasion of tax in India has been found would violate the right to privacy.

“Several more cases are under process and the names of persons prosecuted will become public in due course", it said.

A Dabur group spokesperson said Pradip Burman had opened the overseas account when he was a non-resident Indian and it was legal for him to do so. “We have followed all the laws and the complete details regarding the account have been voluntarily, and as per law, filed with the income-tax department, and appropriate taxes paid, wherever applicable," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Lodhiya, in an interview to NDTV, denied having any “Swiss account" and said he had no idea how his name figured in the list.

Calls to Timblo’s available contact number (phone number for Timblo Pvt. Ltd) and an email query to the given email address remained unanswered. “I have not seen the affidavit. I need to study it before commenting anything on it," Radha Timblo, whose name figures in the list submitted in the Supreme Court, was quoted as saying by PTI.

A special investigation team was set up by the apex court in July 2011 to probe accounts in banks in Liechtenstein which the German government had disclosed at that time. The direction came in a writ petition seeking the return to India of black money kept by Indians in foreign banks; the petition was filed by former law minister and senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

Shreeja Sen, Maulik Rajnikant Pathak in Ahmedabad, Gyan Verma and Anuja in Delhi, PTI and AFP contributed to this report.

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Updated: 28 Oct 2014, 01:51 PM IST
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