Black money: Apex court seeks details on government steps (Lead)

January 27th, 2011 - 10:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday asked the central government to furnish details of the steps it has taken to get back the black money stashed away in foreign banks.The court asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium to file an affidavit detailing all the information the government has in its possession about the concealed money of Indian citizens lying in LGT Bank in Europe and other foreign banks.

The apex court bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar said: “We will like to know about the faceless persons who have stashed away the ill-gotten money in bank accounts abroad.”

“We have a list containing some names. There are some figures. They are known to you. What are the inquiries made about these individuals and the nature of the contents (of the inquires)? You know the details. We want to know. We are not talking about tax agreement or Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA),” the court told the solicitor general.

Responding to the observation of the court, Subramanium said: “We will file a comprehensive affidavit. We are not shielding anybody. Whatever information the government has, will be filed in the comprehensive affidavit”.

The solicitor general said: “We have nothing to hide but we are bound by the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between India and Germany.”

The apex court’s directions came in the wake of the hearing on a petition by jurist Ram Jethmalani who sought directions to the central government to take steps for the recovery of the ill-gotten money stashed away in foreign banks in tax havens.

Jethmalani told the court that the UN has said that all countries are required to share information on money laundering but recently India signed a protocol with Switzerland, which has made it impossible to get any information.

The court wanted to know if the government would place the copy of the protocol before it.

As Subramanium said “it may not be possible to place the copy of the protocol before the court”, Jethamalani offered to provide one.

Appearing for Jethmalani, senior counsel Anil Diwan said the German government’s offer to share the details of the account holders was not confined to those countries which had a DTAA with it.

Diwan told the court that the information was available across the board to all the countries who were inclined to use it.

Liechtenstein, where the LGT Bank is located, is a small independent principality (monarchy) in Europe and is not a part of Germany.

The German authorities obtained the information on the account holders of LGT Bank in Liechtenstein from an employee of the bank.

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