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'Were govt agencies sleeping all these years on blackmoney?'

Last updated on: April 22, 2011 08:23 IST

'Were govt agencies sleeping all these years on blackmoney?'

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"Was the government sleeping all these years on the issue of blackmoney," the Supreme Court on Thursday said while criticising Centre's probe restricting to an individual and being evasive about the idea of an investigation by the Special Investigating Team.

The apex court said the investigation into the issue of black money required "complete" and "full-fledged" involvement of government as the most important question was about the disclosure of source of money stashed in foreign banks which may be terror money or money coming from drug peddling.

A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar asked the governemnt to explain why its investigation is focused only on Pune stud farm owner Hassan Ali Khan and no other name has come out who have stashed money in overseas banks.

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"Your whole focus is centred on one individual. Does it mean that all the black money parked in foreign banks belong to only one person? Is it that black money issue is surrounding around one person? Do you have information beyond that?" the bench said.

"We put it very simply and bluntly. Do you have any information regarding other persons also? It seems there is only one person (Indian) who has bank account in Switzerland and no other persons' account has come under suspect in Swiss bank," the bench told the government.

Responding to the specific question put by the bench, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said the matter has to be investigated on different fronts and the court should ask the RBI to file a report on black money stashed in UBS Bank, Switzerland, on the basis of which further action could be taken.

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He said the issue of passport case should be investigated by CBI as the offence in this regard was not restricted only to Maharashtra but to other states and earlier also it was stated that "it is not an offence simplicitor".

Not impressed by the arguments of the government, the bench said "do you want to say that all government agencies were sleeping till now on this issue?

Now you are saying that different aspects of the case have to be handled by different agencies."

"Is it your case that there is no suspect account in foreign banks other than this man? Since you have been working on the case at least since 2009, we did not say investigation has be a person specific. What is your information"?, the bench said, adding "the source of money has to be found whether it was terror money or money coming from drug peddling".

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It further said the fresh status report filed by the ED has reflected more and speaks about a group company having money stashed in a foreign bank.

"During the course of investigation, something else has come which is there in the status report about Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion). What is the source of Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion)? What is the problem? It belongs to a group of company," the bench said.

The government also opposed the idea of setting up a SIT comprising members of various agencies to probe the case saying the ED has been conducting the investigation properly, which is reflected in the status report filed before the bench.

The court, however, said that in view of the gravity of the case more than one agency is required to conduct the investigation as the ED itself had expressed "helplessness" on numerous occasion while probing the case.

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"We are very clear in our mind that more than one agency is required to conduct the investigation and it should be monitored by a person of eminence which could be a retired Chief Justice of High Court," the court said.

"There is nothing wrong in more than one agency and no one's jurisdiction would be taken away. In fact, the ED has itself shown helplessness many times in the case," the court said adding "we do not say the ED would not be part of the team.

The case is very serious and we are of the opinion that more than one agency is required to conduct probe in it."

The bench was not impressed with the idea of the Solicitor General for segregation of the probe by different agencies like CBI, ED and RBI.

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"Instead of segregation, we propose the constitution of SIT. For the purpose of effective investigation, SIT can be notified," the bench said.

Senior advocates Anil Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said the government did not want SIT and lose control over the probe.

The court asked Subramanium to take instructions from the government on the issue of setting up of SIT and posted the case for further hearing on April 25.

The court was hearing a petition filed by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani and some former bureaucrats seeking the court's direction to the government to bring black money stashed by Indian nationals in foreign banks, which is said to be to the tune of one trillion US dollars.

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Besides Jethmalani, five others, including former Punjab DGP K P S Gill and former Secretary General of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap who are petitioners, have alleged the government was not taking action to bring the back black money stashed in foreign banks.

NGO People's Political Front and former top cop Julio F Riberio are also among the petitioners.

Earlier, the court had expressed displeasure over the government's reluctance to come forward with full information on the black money stashed by Indians in foreign banks, saying keeping national wealth abroad amounted to "plunder" of the country.

The court had also asked the government to track the source of the blackmoney which might have originated from arms deals, drug trafficking and smuggling.

 



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