NEW DELHI: Under pressure from the opposition on the issue of black money, the government may soon reveal the names of persons who had stashed black money in LGT Bank, Liechtenstein. But disclosure of identity from the list of HSBC, Geneva may take some more time as the Income Tax (I-T) department is still in the process of reassessing returns of people who figured in the list of Indians having Swiss accounts.
Sources said in the LGT case, the I-T department has moved courts in different cities, including Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi initiating prosecution. Besides the recovery of tax, authorities have imposed a penalty of 200% of the amount allegedly siphoned off.
Information about 26 account holders of LGT Bank was passed on by German tax authorities in March 2008, a year after a request was made by India. The recovery of tax was made after tax appeals were dismissed by I-T commissioners (appeals), leading to attachment of their bank accounts and prosecution in courts.
The opposition has been insisting for a statement from the government on the HSBC list and disclosure of names arguing that bilateral agreements don’t bound the government for maintaining secrecy as details of HSBC accounts of Indians were part of the theft data procured from a third country.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, has insisted on maintaining secrecy till the stage of prosecution as any revelation before that would hamper government’s effort to procure more data from countries who may have banking information on Indians having large deposits.
The total tax and penalty in the LGT case is believed to be to the extent of Rs 40-45 crore, almost equivalent to the amount that had been spirited away by Indians whose income has now been reassessed, a senior I-T official said.
At present, I-T officials are reopening returns of corporates and other individuals whose names have been found in the HSBC list. I-T officials have conducted more than 50 searches against people having deposits in Swiss accounts, leading to recoveries of Rs 300 crore and others admitting to deposits of more than Rs 2,000 crore.
The government is keen to send those who have been found having unaccounted deposits in foreign banks behind bars. The finance ministry has taken concurrence from other ministries that there is no requirement of any new law to prosecute accused found with black money.
A high-level committee set up by the finance ministry on black money had earlier concurred with the Law ministry that no new law was required to deal with the menace of black money. Existing provisions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) were enough but they need to be further strengthened.
For instance, the minimum punishment for those caught with black money could be enhanced to a jail term of not less than seven years as against the existing five-seven years. After the I-T department filed prosecution against accused in the courts, it shared the list with CBI for further action.