Bollywood’s Big B Under Scanner In Panama Papers Case:- The Income Tax (IT) department is now more “aggressively” pursuing the infamous Panama Papers case. Along with many white-collared officials, Bollywood’s megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s name was emerged in connection with the offshore companies mentioned in the Panama Papers, said a leading news channel.
To access information, a top-level officer has already been dispatched to the British Virgin Islands. The British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean is considered to be among several tax havens. The IT Department has launched thirty-three prosecutions to the names popped up in the Panama Papers and is questioning others.
Earlier, Bachchan had made a public statement saying his name had been probably misused. “I do not know any of the companies referred - Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd, Lady Shipping Ltd, Treasure Shipping Ltd, and Tramp Shipping Ltd. I have never been a director of any of the above stated companies. It is possible that my name has been misused. I have paid all my taxes including on money spent by me overseas. Money that I have remitted overseas have been in compliance with law, including remittances through Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS), after paying Indian taxes. In any event the news report does not even suggest any illegality on my part,” he had said in a statement.
In connection with its tax evasion probe in the Panama papers leak case, the income tax department has sent over 260 requests overseas seeking information. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also started investigations in 49 cases to investigate the alleged contravention of forex laws by the entities named in this list under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has provided data on the status of investigations to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The CBDT is the policy making body of the Income Tax department.
An official, on the condition of anonymity, told the publication, “There is no let-up in investigations. We are aggressively seeking information from other countries.”
When asked about the information linked to the accusations against Bachchan, the official stated, “Mr Bachchan has said he does not own any of the firms named in the documents. So we just can’t launch a probe. We have to seek information.”
“Some of the accounts which were revealed are also genuine and those named have come forward to give details. It is a long-drawn process of seeking information,” said the official.
“We have sent a senior CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) officer to the British Virgin Islands to gather information and we are also seeking information from various other countries and then we will have to analyze and see if there are any violations,” revealed the official to the leading daily.
In connection with the Panama papers, the names of several stars, businessman and politicians have been attached to the Panama Papers.
The Panama papers refer to the 11.5 million leaked documents. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published these documents with details of offshore entities set up by the law firm Mossack Fonseca over 40 years.
Earlier, answering questions over the fate of Panama papers, on August 10, the government said every account named in the leak is being investigated, but made it clear that unlike Pakistan where Nawaz Sharif was removed as prime minister, nobody would be punished without a proper process.
“Nobody has ever taken more action than this government on foreign account details which have come,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha while replying to a debate on Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill which was passed by the House later.
Referring to the Panama papers leak, he said “every account” in it is being investigated. “We have a rule of law. We do not have system like the neighbouring country where you remove first and then have a trial,” Jaitley said, clearly referring to Sharif who was ousted last month over the Panama papers leak issue.
After the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office Sharif had to resign and the SC ruled that graft cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama papers scandal. Questions were raised in India in the wake of that development, regarding the status of investigation in the same issue.
During the reply, Jaitley said investigations are being conducted by the tax authorities and in cases where the documents have been received, the prosecutions are being launched. “We first make our own investigations and on each one of those cases, whether it is Liechtenstein cases or HSBC cases or other cases which have come to the notice or the Panama, in each case, we have been touch with the regular authorities of the country where these accounts are,” he said.
“Prosecutions are being filed wherever documents are coming. Assessment proceedings are being cleared and there is no prohibition on publishing their names once the prosecutions are filed because they are filed in India in open court,” the finance minister said.