The Income Tax department has issued notices to three top private lenders in the country - ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and HDFC Bank - in connection with alleged money laundering charges levelled by online portal Cobrapost.
The department has asked these banks to produce documents for verification as part of its tax evasion probe. The notices have been issued under section 131 of the I-T Act (power regarding discovery, production of evidence) after going through two confidential reports submitted recently to the Department of Revenue by the RBI and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), official sources said on Tuesday.
E-mails sent by PTI to ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and HDFC Bank seeking their response on the development did not elicit any reply.
The aim of the department is to check suspected tax evasion by the banking institutions and possible loss of revenue by illegal acts done by authorised individuals, sources said.
Apart from production of "books of account, deposit logs and other documents" over a period of more than 12 months, the department has also asked the banks to submit the reports of their respective internal enquiries conducted in the aftermath of the Cobrapost sting operation, they said.
In some cases, sources said, senior bank officials have also been asked to remain present for "explanations and clarifications" on the subject as required by the Assessment Officer of the department. According to sources, similar notices will be issued to various other banks and financial institutions which featured in the second episode of the Cobrapost sting. Following the exposes by Cobrapost in March, RBI had initiated an investigation into the working of banks.