Monday, 27 October 2014

Black money case: Centre discloses more names to Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The Centre today disclosed before the Supreme Court eight more names including that of Pradip Burman, one of Dabur IndiaBSE -3.06 % promoters, a bullion trader and Goa miners against whom it has started prosecution for allegedly stashing blackmoney in foreign banks.

Rajkot-based bullion trader Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhya and Goa-based mining company Timblo Private Limited and its five Directors were among the names that figured in the list which was filed in the Supreme Court by the government.

The affidavit, filed days after the government came under attack from political rivals that it was chary of revealing names, said that these names have been received from French authorities and other countries.

Promising to disclose more names of black money holders who have come under its scanner, the government said that all foreign bank accounts cannot be termed as "illegal".

The additional affidavit on the black money issue was filed today in furtherance of its affidavit recently when it had said that names of account holders in foreign banks cannot be disclosed till there is evidence of tax evasion against them and prosecution is launched in India.

While Burman's name was received from French authorities the names of Lodhia and others have been received from "other countries".

The list names Timblo Private Limited and its Directors Mrs Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S Timblo, Rohan S Timblo, Mrs Anna C Timblo and Mrs Mallika R Timblo. It was not clear whether the account holder is the company or its Directors.

Shortly after the disclosure in the Supreme Court, Dabur India promoter family, Burmans said the account complied with all legal requirements.

"We wish to state that this account was opened when he (Pradip) was an NRI, and was legally allowed to open this account," a Dabur spokesperson said in a statement.

"We have followed all the laws and the complete details regarding the account have been voluntarily, and as per law, filed with the Income Tax Department, and appropriate taxes paid, wherever applicable," he added.

Lodhiya denied having a Swiss bank account. "We have already declared in the income tax and there is nothing...we don't have any Swiss account that is the only thing which I can say," he said.

Radha Timbo declined to comment on her name being mentioned in the affidavit, saying she has to first study it before commenting.
The government in its 10-page affidavit submitted that it cannot disclose all the information and names of account holders in overseas banks, received from foreign countries, unless there is a "prima facie" evidence of wrongdoing for launching prosecution for tax evasion.

"The government is committed to disclose names of persons holding illegal money abroad. However, every account held by an Indian in a foreign country may not be illegal and the fundamental right of citizens to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be ignored and has been recognised by this court," it said, adding the names and information/ documents cannot be disclosed even even under a proceedings under Article 32(1) of the Constitution.

It submitted the apex court to clarify its earlier order directing it to reveal even the names of foreign bank account holders against whom no evidence was found for stashing black money saying the government would have a problem entering into tax agreements with other countries.

"There is absolutely no intention on the part of the government to withhold information, including names of persons who have stashed black money abroad, but only to seek certain clarification that will enable the government to enter into agreements with other countries under which information relating to unaccounted money lying abroad can be obtained," it said.

"The information received under these tax treaties and agreements will be disclosed after following the due process of law, in all cases where evasion of tax is established. The intention of the present government is clear and unambiguous.

"The government is keen to unearth black money held abroad and for that purpose it will use all diplomatic and legal means and also all investigating agencies to obtain information that can assist in such unearthing," the affidavit said.

The government said various tax agreements authorise disclosure of information in public court proceedings that are consequent to establishing of tax evasion and thus in all cases of tax evasion where a complaint/prosecution is filed, the names/information/documents will be made public.

"Several more cases are under process and the names of persons prosecuted will become public in due course. The SIT will also be kept informed about the outcome of the investigations," it said.

The Narendra Modi government, which promised to bring back black money stashed by Indians in foreign banks, expressed its commitment to bring back unaccounted money and submitted that one of its first act after it was formed on May 26 was to constitute the SIT as per the apex court's direction.

It said right to privacy is an integral part of right of life and accordingly information received under a tax treaty cannot be disclosed unless there is prima facie case of tax evasion.

The Centre submitted that the apex court should clarify that it is not prohibited to enter into a treaty wherein a commitment may be made by the government to maintain the confidentiality of information received as per international standards.

It said that as per the international standards, the information received under the tax treaties can be used only for tax purposes and such other purposes as permitted in the treaty.

Earlier, the UPA government on April 29 this year revealed names of 18 persons in the apex court who had allegedly stashed black money with LST bank and against whom prosecution has been launched by the IT department.

The names included that of Mohan Manoj Dhupelia, Ambrish Manoj Dhupelia, Bhavya Manoj Dhupelia, Manoj Dhupelia and Rupal Dhupelia from Ambrunova Trust and Marline Management.

Centre had said that IT department also found evidence against four members of Manichi Trust-- Hasmuk Ishwarlal Gandhi, Chintan Hasmukh Gandhi, Madhu Hasmukh Gandhi and Late Mirav Hasmukh Gandhi.

It said that prosecution has been initiated against Chandrakant Ishwarlal Gandhi, Rajesh Chandrakant Gandhi, Viraj Chandrakant Gandhi and Dhanalaxmi Chandrakant Gandhi from Ruvisha Trust.

Names of Arunkumar Ramniklal Mehta and Harshad Ramnikal Mehta from Dainese Stiftung and Dryade Satiftunf trust was also mentioned in the list.

K M Mammen from Webster Foundation, Arun Kochhar from Urvashi Foundation and Ashok Jaipuria from Raj Foundation were also named.

Centre also placed in a sealed envelope the names of other individuals with respect of eight other cases in which it found no evidence of tax evasion