Govt announces multi agency group-monitored probe into ‘Pandora Papers’ leak

NEW DELHI: The government on Monday directed investigations to be carried out in relation to ‘Pandora Paper’ leaks that revealed secret wealth and illegal investments of hundreds of politicians, businessmen and celebrities across the world, including Indian.
The investigation will be monitored by a multi-agency group headed by central board of direct taxes (CBDT) chairman. It will also comprise having representatives from CBDT, enforcement directorate, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Financial Intelligence Unit, the official spokesperson of the tax authority said.
“The relevant investigative agencies would undertake investigation in these cases and appropriate action would be taken in such cases as per law,” the ministry of finance said.
The government will also proactively engage with foreign jurisdictions for obtaining information in respect of relevant taxpayers/entities.
Nearly 12 million documents purportedly throwing light on the secret, ‘ill-gotten’ wealth of the rich and famous, including Indians, were made public on Sunday as part of the ‘Pandora Papers’ probe.
The names that the papers claim to expose include 330-odd politicians of more than 90 countries.
As many as 380 Indians are on the list of the global elite who have been exposed for ringfencing their wealth through shadowy financial transactions and using offshore tax havens to hide assets worth millions of dollars.
What are Pandora Papers
The Pandora Papers are documents that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ).
It exposed the offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the Presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair among others.
In total, 100 billionaires as well as celebrities from countries like Russia, US, India, Pakistan, UK and Mexico used shell firms and incognito bank accounts to purchase secret assets and conduct secret financial dealings.
A total of 2.94 terabytes of files came from companies hired by wealthy clients to allegedly create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
‘Appropriate action would be taken’
In a statement, the government said it has taken note of this and relevant investigative agencies would undertake investigation in these cases and appropriate action would be taken as per law.
“The Government of India is also part of an Inter-Governmental Group that ensures collaboration and experience sharing to effectively address tax risks associated with such leaks,” the CBDT added.

It further said names of only a few Indians (legal entities as well as individuals) have appeared in the media so far.
Even the ICIJ website has not yet released the names and other particulars of all the entities.
The website of ICIJ suggests that information will be released in phases and structured data connected to the Pandora Papers investigation will be released only in the days to come on its Offshore Leaks Database, it added.
Prompt action called by other nations
Malaysia’s main opposition leader called for information found in the Pandora Papers data leak to be discussed in Parliament, after learning the country’s former finance minister and several current officials might have been involved with offshore firms set up in tax havens.
The European Commission, the 27-nation European Union’s executive arm, said in response to the revelations that it is preparing new legislative proposals to enhance tax transparency and reinforce the fight against tax evasion.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II denied any impropriety in his purchase of luxury homes abroad, seeking to contain a budding scandal over reports of lavish spending at a time when his country is mired in recession and coping with soaring unemployment.
(With inputs from agencies)

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