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India to investigate cases related to Pandora Papers

The ‘Pandora Papers' sheds light on how world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires and others have used offshore accounts to shield assets (AFP)Premium
The ‘Pandora Papers' sheds light on how world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires and others have used offshore accounts to shield assets (AFP)

The International Consortium of International Journalists (ICIJ) has come out with what is claimed to be a 2.94 terabyte data trove that exposes the offshore secrets of wealthy elites from more than 200 countries and territories

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The central government said on Monday that it will investigate cases pertaining to the massive leak of financial documents, being dubbed the “Pandora Papers", and take appropriate action, as per law. 

“The government has taken note of these developments. The relevant investigative agencies would undertake an investigation in these cases and appropriate action would be taken in such cases as per law," the ministry of finance said in a statement. 

“With a view to ensure effective investigation in these cases, the government will also proactively engage with foreign jurisdictions for obtaining information in respect of relevant taxpayers/entities," it added. 

The ministry went on to say that the Indian government is part of an inter-governmental group that ensures collaboration and experience sharing to effectively address tax risks associated with such leaks.

“It may be noted that following earlier similar such leaks in the form of ICIJ, HSBC, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, the Government has already enacted the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 with an aim to curb black money, or undisclosed foreign assets and income by imposing suitable tax and penalty on such income," it said. 

Undisclosed credits of Rs. 20,352 crore approximately (status as on 15.09.2021) have been detected in the investigations carried out in the Panama and Paradise Papers, it said. 

Name of Indians in leak 

More than 300 Indians, including business people, figure in the 'Pandora Papers' that has uncovered the financial assets of rich individuals across the world. 

Anil Ambani, Vinod Adani, Jackie Shroff, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Niira Radia, Sachin Tendulkar and Satish Sharma, among others, figure in the list of Indians in the 'Pandora Papers' revealed so far.

Rights group Oxfam India has called for immediate action by authorities and abolishing tax havens following the expose of the 'Pandora Papers'.

"Tax havens cost governments around the world USD 427 billion each year. Developing countries are being hardest hit, proportionately. Corporations and the wealthiest individuals that use tax havens are outcompeting those who don't. Tax havens also help crime and corruption to flourish," Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.

Abolishing tax havens can go a long way towards ensuring that government actually have the access to tax revenue they need to fund quality public expenditure, he added.

Many of those featured in the leak have rejected allegations of misdoings.

Among others, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on Monday said her hubsand's offshore trust was bonafide and legitimate.

"Media stories reporting on Pandora Papers wrongly implicate my husband's offshore trust, which is a bonafide, legitimate trust and is managed by Independent Trustees. No Indian resident holds “the key" to the trust as alleged in these stories," Mazumdar-Shaw, the executive chairperson of biotechnology major Biocon, said in a tweet.

Pandora Papers leak 

The 'Pandora Papers' have uncovered financial secrets of current and former world leaders, politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories.

On a world map highlighting the number of politicians linked with offshore dealings, India is shown as having six and Pakistan seven.

The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan's King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The billionaires called out in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.

Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other shady reasons, according to the report.

The ICIJ involves at least 150 media outlets worldwide, including 'The Indian Express' in India and claims to have obtained as many as 12 million documents from 14 companies in offshore tax havens.



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