Lashing out at those, including the Congress party, who want the government to make names of black money holders public, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said unauthorised disclosure of such names can sabotage investigation and benefit the guilty.
“An unauthorised disclosure of information is fraught with both investigation and economic consequences. They can sabotage the investigation. They can attract sanctions in the form of withholding taxes,” he said in a Facebook post on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that all efforts would be made to bring back black money stashed abroad.
Questioning those demanding disclosure of names in violation of tax treaties, Mr. Jaitley said: “The Congress party’s stand is understandable. It does not want evidence to be forthcoming in support of the names available with SIT. Are some others ill informed, just indulging in bravado or are they Trojan horses?”
The Minister exuded confidence that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which has been entrusted by the Supreme Court with the investigation, will succeed in bringing out the truth and the NDA government made available all the names in its possession to the SIT June 27, 2014 itself.
“The NDA Government has had an exemplary record in this matter… It will continue to support the SIT fully and unequivocally in search of truth,” Mr. Jaitley said.
The choice before the government was between unauthorised disclosure and disclosure as per treaties, he said, adding that the latter is both a fair and beneficial proposition.
“It will help in collection of evidence and exposure of a wrong doing in accordance with law and fair procedure. A disclosure without evidence would ensure that evidence is never available,” he added.
Earlier in his address to the nation over radio, Mr. Modi said that bringing back black money from outside the country is an “article of faith” for him and nothing will be lacking in his efforts to do so.
Last week the government had submitted to the Supreme Court in sealed envelopes details of 627 account holders in HSBC Bank Geneva.
The government also came under attack from opposition parties that it was going back on its election promise to unearth and bring back black money stashed abroad.
Mr. Jaitley said disclosure of names in violation of tax treaties will help account holders as the reciprocating state could refuse to provide any evidence in support of the unauthorised account.
“The holder of the unauthorised account in the absence of any proof and confirmation from the reciprocating State would get the benefit in any investigation or prosecution and then claim that ‘I stand vindicated’,” he said.
A pre mature disclosure, Mr. Jaitley said, would additionally alert the account holder to prepare some documentation or a sham defence and would also provide him opportunity to destroy evidence.
Mr. Jaitley said India could not participate at a recent meeting of 50 countries in Berlin on automatic exchange of information as the prevalent view is that confidentiality clauses are unconstitutional in Indian law.
“This view requires reconsideration. An automatic exchange of information would relate both to authorised and unauthorised movement of money,” he said.
Referring to the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which also contains the confidentiality clause, Mr. Jaitley said the Reserve Bank has cautioned the government of serious consequences in case India fails to comply with the American legislation.
“The consequences of not signing the agreement with U.S. under FATCA would be disastrous. It will negate the efforts being undertaken by our government to revive the Indian economy,” he said.
The Reserve Bank too has cautioned the Government about the “serious and adverse consequences” of non-compliance of FATCA by India. Several countries have already subscribed to FATCA,” he said.
Under FATCA the exchange of information between the countries is subject to a confidentiality clause.
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