NEW DELHI: The income tax department is “aggressively” pursuing names that emerged in the Panama Papers, including Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, and has dispatched a top-level officer to the British Virgin Islands to access information, a senior official has said.
The British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean is considered to be among several tax havens. The tax department has launched 33 prosecutions linked to the names revealed in the Panama Papers and is probing others.
“There is no let-up in investigations. We are aggressively seeking information from other countries,” the official, who did not wish to be identified, told TOI. After Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif was removed by the country’s top court in connection with the Panama Papers case, there has been criticism that tax authorities in India are dragging their feet.
Asked whether information linked to the allegations against Bachchan was being pursued, the official said: “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.”
“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 analyse and see if there are any violations,” the official said.
Names of several film stars, politicians and businessmen figured in the so-called Panama Papers. Bachchan has denied any wrongdoing, and has said that his remittances overseas were in line with Indian regulations. He has also denied any links with the firms named in the Panama Papers. “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.
Panama Papers are leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm – Mossack Fonseca, which has offices in 35 countries. It has 11.5 million documents, involving 2,14,000 offshore entities covering a time period between 1977 and 2015. The Panama Papers reveal names of 140 political figures from 50 countries with links to offshore accounts. These include 12 current or former heads of state as well as sportspersons, administrators and 29 billionaires from the Forbes rich list.
India has joined a global task-force on shared intelligence and collaboration to pursue progress on the Panama Papers investigations.