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BJP's 23-point charter to get back black money stashed abroad

February 05, 2011 21:38 IST

The Bhartiya Janata Party will pressure the United Progressive Alliance government in the upcoming Parliament session to act on a 23-point charter formulated by its 'task force' for following constitutional, legal, political and geo-political measures to unearth and bring back the Indian monies illegally stashed abroad.

The 'task force,' comprising noted Indian Institute of Management Bangalore professor R Vaidyanathan, chartered accountant S Gurumurthy, former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval and senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, son of Ram Jethmalani who is pursuing the black money case in the Supreme Court, gave its report to the BJP early this week and its veteran Lal Krishna Advani lost no time in getting the report endorsed by its allies in the National Democratic Alliance.

Topping the recommendations of the task force is enactment of a law that declares the government of India as beneficiary of all monies, assets and bank accounts held abroad by the Indian nationals without declaring the same to the Indian authorities.

Such nationals be allowed to reclaim the assets by proving with evidence before an impartial tribunal that the assets held outside India are acquired by
them by proper means and the non-declaration is merely a technical offence.

The task force said such an asset restoration provision will shift onus of proof on the person who has held undeclared wealth abroad and the government will not face the charge of expropriating the assets without the due process under the law.

Voluntary declaration:

It says if political consensus is possible, the government may think of providing a window of opportunity to businessmen and professionals to bring back the money with suitable grace period and penalty and beyond the moratorium period of say six months, the government completely nationalises any funds kept abroad.

Also, persons who have accumulated funds abroad illegally should be barred from holding any public office and getting loans from banks, etc. as a form of punishment. Even cancellation of citizenship can be considered, the task force stressed, pointing out that otherwise the 'black sheep' will continue to have every privilege.

On the basis of such a law, the task force argues that the government can ask the world governments and banks committed to secrecy like the Swiss banks to recognise the Indian government as the beneficiary of the undeclared wealth, bank accounts and other assets till the owner is able to prove that he had acquired it by fair means and from legally valid sources.

Omnibus FIRs:

It also suggests registration of an omnibus criminal case by the National Investigative Agency against suspected unidentified persons who have been transferring money to more than 70 tax havens abroad illegally.

It says the case may be transferred to a special team of the Central Bureau of Investigation and investigated under the Supreme Court's supervision. Such FIRs had been registered in the past in the case of Punjab terrorism and Nagaland insurgency against the unknown accused persons.

Registration of the criminal case will enable the investigating agencies to summon people for questioning, interrogate suspects, seize incriminating documents, conduct raid, make arrests and examine documents. An omnibus FIR will facilitate continuous investigation.

Another suggestion is to look at the issue as a criminal act against the state since some portion of the stashed away money is suspected to be used also for funding terror related activities.

Dead depositors:

The task force also noted that huge amounts of the Indians in secret bank accounts get appropriated by the banks as these cannot be bequeath to their progenies and most of the depositors die without informing the progenies about the accounts.

It may run into billions since 1950s as sudden death of a political leader or
businessman creates such situations.

"Such monies should be declared by a special law as escheat and vested in government of India with a provision that the progenies of the account holder may claim the same by providing requisite evidence to show that the monies in such accounts were sourced in legal business or other receipts."

The task force also stressed that every politician at the time of elections and those at the time of appointment as Reserve Bank governor, Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman, CBI chief, IB chief, Research and Analysis Wing chief, Central Vigilance Commissioner etc should affirm on affidavit that they do not hold illegal money abroad.

Global efforts:

It also stressed that India must join global efforts against tax havens and secret banking as enunciated in the meeting of the Finance Integrity and Economic Development in Bergen, Norway in September 210, that was also attended by the finance ministry officials.

As for the illegal funds kept for nefarious purposes, the BJP task force suggests that the government raise the issue in multilateral forums like G-20 and United Nations Security Council to get a common legislation enacted to draw out funds from tax havens.

The task force stressed that the bilateral treaties have limitations since their jurisdictions in many cases are non-transparent and rather 'created to hold illegal wealth.'

As such, it says the government better set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to distinguish between funds and holders as it will help in voluntary confessions with penalty to those who have accumulated funds abroad to evade taxes. Such a commission will be able to distinguish between different shades of criminals.

Destabilised economy:

It also wants constitution of an inter-ministerial task force comprising representatives of SEBI, RBI, RAW, IB and Law Ministry and outside experts to deal with the billions of dollars brought in as otherwise it may destabilise forex rates and fuel further inflation.

Some other recommendations of the task force are:

  • The Prime Minister take the nation into confidence by disclosing the foreign travels to tax havens by his union ministers;

  • Black money abroad be treated as "treason" since at least the domestic black or unaccounted money is used in our economy and hence productive but it is not so with the money kept in foreign banks as "domestic black money is a vote of no confidence on the government only, while illegal Indian wealth abroad is a vote of no confidence on India as a country;"

  • Political parties and media as also intellectuals and well-meaning citizens like the former Supreme Court and high court judges, members of the bar, academics and professionals join hands to create a public opinion against the black money and appeal to the global institutions and diverse governments of the world alike Tunisia movement that compelled the Swiss government to act against illicit monies stashed by the Tunisian rulers; and

  • Middle class that has retreated from the public domain, seeking comfort in their private life and careers, will have to come out in the open to demand action, and the spiritual leaders will have to also do so.

The task force also stressed that India take up the responsibility of enunciating a new global financial architecture suiting Asian value systems and replacing the architecture evolved in the 20th century by the Anglo-Saxon laws that promoted secretive jurisdictions.

"We should stress on geographical disclosure of sources and uses of funds by global banks and based on that 'automatic information sharing' should be done by the recipient nations.

"In other words, closing down of the secretive tax jurisdictions should be one of the objectives of India for a non-conflicting civilizational future," the task force added.

A Correspondent in New Delhi