Govt refuses to name account holders in tax haven despite SC order
April, 28th 2014
Why is the government reluctant to share the names of Indian tax evaders having accounts in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein with the Supreme Court even when it amounts to contempt of court?
The apex court last week threatened action against the government under contempt of court for not disclosing the names of Indians having deposits in LGT Bank.
Interestingly, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has launched prosecution against 17 Indians who had deposits in LGT Bank in different courts in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. One tax evader of the 18 has died. If cases have already been filed against these tax evaders, what stops the government from sharing names with the SC?
Sources said the information shared by Germany had more than 26 names of Indians while CBDT has launched criminal proceedings against only 17. In some cases, taxes have been assessed but no prosecution has been launched.
The government has so far taken the plea that it can't share details of these tax evaders as it is bound under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Germany and France not to share details of names shared by them.
In 2008, Germany had shared details of Indians having deposits in LGT Bank. After an intense opposition campaign against black money, the government had launched prosecution proceedings.
Initially, CBDT indicated action would be taken against 26 tax evaders. But in the last winter session in December, in response to a Parliament question, the government stated that assessments have been done against 18 individual cases "being beneficiary of the trusts/entities."
The total assessed income in the 18 cases was put at Rs 39.66 crore. The Income Tax department raised a demand of Rs 24.26 crore in these cases as tax. In addition, about Rs 12 crore penalty had been imposed in just nine cases.
In another instance where France had shared information on Indians having deposits in HSBC Bank in Geneva, the government had received data on at least 700 Indians.
In a press note in 2012, the CBDT had stated that "information from Germany and France has been investigated. Tax evasion of more than Rs 600 crore detected and taxes of Rs 200 crore has already been realized. Prosecution proceedings have been launched in 17 cases pertaining to LGT Bank accounts."
Though the CBDT admitted that assessment proceedings had been initiated in cases relating to HSBC accounts, but there was no prosecution launched as that would also bring these names in the public domain.