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Mumbai I-T dept seeks law on data sharing by agencies
February, 07th 2012

Citing poor coordination among national enforcement agencies as a major stumbling block to curbing black money in India, the income-tax (I-T) department in Mumbai has proposed that the government introduce a law making it mandatory for them to share information on a real-time basis.

The proposal was submitted last month to a government panel constituted in April 2011 and headed by the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to examine and strengthen the existing legal and administrative framework to deal with black money, its illegal transfer abroad, and recovery.
The panel is in the final stage of incorporating suggestions and is expected to submit its report by the end of February. If the Mumbai I-T departments suggestion is accepted, the panel is expected to suggest changes in norms before the finance minister presents the budget in Parliament next month.

Senior officials of investigating agencies would be held accountable for any failure in sharing information if the changes are made, said a senior I-T official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Mints Khushboo Narayan says Mumbais income tax department has proposed the passing of a law that would make it mandatory for the government to share information on a real time basis.

Under (current) norms, an enforcement agency needs government approval to pass on information to any another agency, which is a tedious process. Sometimes by the time we get the permission, the proceeds of crime move out of the country leaving little scope for investigation, said the I-T official.

A senior enforcement directorate official said such a law would ensure better coordination, the current lack of which leads to delays in investigation.

For instance, in a particular case we had asked for information from the I-T department, but its been a year and we are yet to receive the information we had asked for, he said. Similarly, there have been instances where we have not parted with information for no obvious reason.

Currently, the Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND), an independent body reporting directly to the Economic Intelligence Council headed by the finance minister, is responsible for receiving and disseminating information on suspicious financial transactions to agencies investigating money laundering and related crimes.

Since its inception, FIU-IND has generated about 50,000 suspicious transaction reports.

According to both officials, the information received by FIU-IND is sporadic and an information-sharing law will help speed up investigation in cases that require a multi-agency probe.

India has seen many allegations of fraudulent activities in the recent past, including the ongoing second-generation telecom spectrum scam and an $8 billion money laundering case against Pune businessman Hasan Ali Khan.

In the past two years, Indian authorities have also been investigating irregularities related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, illegal mining in Karnataka and an alleged money laundering case against Madhu Koda, former chief minister of Jharkhand.

The Mumbai I-T department has also recommended the formulation of uniform know-your-customer (KYC) norms across regulators in order to ensure seamless identification of customers across segments.

In November, U.K. Sinha, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India, said in an interview that the market regulator was in talks with other regulators to introduce centralized KYC norms.

Besides the CBDT chairman, other members of the panel on black money include the CBDT members (legislation and computerization), director of the enforcement directorate, director general of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, director general of the Directorate of Currency, joint secretary of CBDT and joint secretary of FIU-IND.

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