The government on Saturday said it has served notices to 17 persons who allegedly kept untaxed money in foreign banks and prosecution has begun against them, but refused to reveal their names.
The comments, made by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, came a day after some media reports revealed names of 15 entities, including individuals and trusts, who allegedly kept illicit money in LGT Bank of Liechtenstein, an European country neighbouring Switzerland.
"We have received a few names and already served notices on 17 persons and prosecution has begun," he said.
Mukherjee added that it was not possible to reveal the names of those who have stashed money in overseas banks.
"The government, suo motu, cannot reveal the names because according to treaty we can only use the information for taxation purposes," Mukherjee told reporters. "We can only reveal the details in the open court when the matter comes up for hearing," Mukherjee added.
These are the persons whose names were given to India by the German government, which had purchased the stolen data of over 1,400 people with secret accounts in the LGT Bank.
The Indian government has been refusing to make these names public, citing secrecy clause in the deal with Germany, and has shared the details with the Supreme Court only.
The black money issue has become a big political controversy, with the opposition parties asking the government to reveal these names and even the courts mounting pressure to take action to bring back the black money stashed by Indians abroad.
Late in January, Mukherjee held a press conference in the national capital on the black money issue and said the government has initiated a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the issue, but the names cannot be disclosed due to bilateral treaties with various governments.
He had said there was no legal framework available right now with the government to reveal details about black money accounts. Treaties are being negotiated with 65 countries for getting information about tax evaders, Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee maintained that there were no clear estimates about black money and the government has constituted a multi-disciplinary committee to get studies conducted to estimate the quantum of illicit funds generated by Indian citizens.
"The government has nothing to hide. No question of hiding. Let us understand the issue. No information can be made available unless there is a legal framework. No sovereign government is going to share information unless there is a legal framework," he had said.