New Delhi: Investigators, probing the ‘Panama Papers’ leak where several hundred Indian identities figure, have found that a number of these offshore asset investments have been made in the tax haven of British Virgin Islands.
Official sources said multi-agency group constituted by the Indian government has come across the British Virgin Islands or BVI “link” in multiple cases.
It then decided to approach the nation with queries in this regard under the protocols of an existing tax information pact.
Sources said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which leads the investigating group, has instructed the field investigation units to prepare “water-tight” cases before approaching BVI with all relevant background to obtain information in this regard.
The North Caribbean island country has figured a number of times in cases of black money and overseas probes of various investigative agencies like the IT department, Enforcement Directorate and the CBI.
Sources said while a “good number” of entities named in the ‘Panama Papers’ disclosure have been found to have declared these investments to the taxman in the past, there are “many” who have not done so and are now being probed by the tax department.
Last year, the CBDT had brought out fresh and specific standard operating guidelines for Indian investigators to seek information from jurisdictions like BVI and a host of others while working on cases of tax evasion, money laundering and subsequent round-tripping and layering of funds to and from India.
Hundreds of individuals, entities and addresses with links to India figure in the latest edition of ‘Panama Papers’ giving information on offshore holding of companies in tax havens.
A random check of the database for India displays about 22 offshore entities, 1,046 officers or individual links, 42 intermediaries and as many as 828 addresses within the country.
These range from the tony and posh locations of metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to mofussil locations like that in Haryana’s Sirsa, Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur and state capital Bhopal and those in North Eastern states.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a searchable database that strips away the secrecy of nearly 2,14,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.
The data, part of the Panama Papers investigation, is the largest ever release of information about offshore companies and the people behind them. This includes, when available, the names of the real owners of those opaque structures, the consortium said.
The global body that brought out last month the first edition of the ‘Panama Papers’, by way of secret offshore data sourced from a Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, said the information about a particular country could have “duplicates” as it reiterated that “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts”.