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Govt reveals names of 7 in black money list

The government on Monday revealed the names of seven people, including a Dabur group promoter, Pradip Burman, and an entity, for allegedly stashing money in foreign banks.

Besides Burman, a former director of Dabur India, Rajkot-based bullion trader Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhiya, Goa-headquartered mining firm Timblo Pvt Ltd and five of Timblo’s directors – Radha Timblo, Chetan Timblo, Rohan Timblo, Anna Timblo and Mallika Timblo – figure in the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the government. The affidavit will come up before a Bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu on Tuesday.

Burman’s name was received from the French authorities, while the others’ were furnished by other countries, the affidavit said.

The disclosed names were a minuscule part of the 600-odd people talked about in the HSBC list, a point caught by political opponents of the Narendra Modi government, saying the ruling regime lacked the political will to disclose the rest of the names.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “They are the government. They control ministries and departments. They should act…. Do not play games.”

The government said in its affidavit that tax treaties did not allow it to disclose names unless there was evidence of wrongdoing based on a complaint or prosecution for tax evasion. It asked the Supreme Court to clarify an earlier order directing it to reveal names of foreign bank account holders against whom no evidence was found for stashing unaccounted money abroad. The government said this would make it difficult to enter into tax agreements with other countries.

“Several cases are under process and the names of persons prosecuted will become public in due course,” the government said in its affidavit. “However, every account held by an Indian in a foreign country may not be illegal and the fundamental right of citizens cannot be ignored,” the affidavit added.

A spokesperson for Dabur India said it was unfortunate that every person having a foreign bank account was being painted with the same brush.

“This account was opened when he (Pradip Burman) was an NRI (non-resident Indian) and was legally allowed to open this account. We have followed all the laws and the complete details regarding the account have been filed with the income-tax department and appropriate taxes paid,” he said.

The spokesperson pointed out that Burman did not hold any executive position in Dabur India. Shares of Dabur India fell a little over three per cent to Rs 209.20 on BSE on Monday.

Lodhya, owner of Shreeji Trading Company, told reporters in Rajkot: “I have no account in any Swiss bank. I have no foreign bank account. I came to know about this from the media. I am shocked.”

The government is prosecuting seven people under Sections 276 C (1) and 277 of the Income-Tax Act that deal with attempts to evade tax and with making false statements.

The government has already provided the names of 18 trusts in connection with the accounts maintained with LGT Bank in Liechtenstein. Prosecution has been launched in all these cases, except in one where the taxpayer has died. The prosecution in these cases was based on information received from Germany.

As the government had raised the pitch on unaccounted money, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying the Congress would be embarrassed when names were revealed, the Opposition took on the ruling party over the issue. “The party that had sought votes in the general elections on the issue of corruption and black money has come out with only three names,” said former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Lawyer Ram Jethmalani (also an expelled BJP leader), who had in 2009 filed a public interest suit seeking the Supreme Court’s direction to help bring back black money, on Monday said: “The present administration has resiled from this position and now after over three years is praying for modification/clarification of the judgment and order of July 4, 2011, in connection with the disclosure regarding Liechtenstein Bank accounts of Indians.”

Revelation of these names is significant because Switzerland had earlier refused to provide any information on the HSBC list, claiming the data were stolen. The case pertains to a list of a little over 600 Indians whose details were stolen by an employee of HSBC Bank in 2008 and handed over to the French government, which decided to share those with India.

BLACK MONEY TRAIL

2009: Ram Jethmalani and others file a PIL in SC, seek the court’s directions to help bring back black money stashed in tax havens abroad

2011: SC asks why the names of those who have stashed money in the Liechtenstein Bank have not been disclosed

  • France receives a list with names of more than 600 Indian account holders in HSBC Geneva and shares it with India

2014- April: UPA govt discloses to SC the names of 26 people with accounts in Liechtenstein banks

  • May: NDA govt sets up SIT on unaccounted money
     
  • Oct: Govt tells SC it can’t disclose the names unless there is evidence of wrongdoing based on a complaint or prosecution
     
  • Oct 27: Govt reveals names of 7 people and an entity

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