Making public black money list can sabotage probe: Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Making public the list of foreign account holders handed to the apex court would violate the tax treaties, India has signed with other nations and could sabotage the investigations to unearth black money, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Sunday.

"An unauthorized disclosure of information is fraught with both investigation and economic consequences. They can sabotage the investigation. They can attract sanctions in the form of withholding taxes," he said in a Facebook post titled "Confidentiality clauses and the battle for tracing black money outside India".

Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley

His comments came on the day in his address to the nation over radio, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that bringing back black money from outside the country is an "article of faith" for him.

Criticising the Congress for demanding disclosure of names in violation of tax treaties, Jaitley said: "The Congress Party's stand is understandable. It does not want evidence to be forthcoming in support of the names available with SIT. Are some others ill-informed, just indulging in bravado or are they Trojan horses?"

"An unauthorised disclosure in violation of tax treaties entails that the disclosure is made for collateral purposes. It is usually not accompanied by any evidence or proof. But when a disclosure is made in pursuance of a charge sheet in a court of law where a criminal prosecution is filed, it would certainly be a disclosure substantiated by adequate proof and evidence," he noted.

Drawing attention to the confidentiality clause of the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty (DTAT) that India has signed with other countries, Jaitley said: "A disclosure without evidence would ensure that evidence is never available."

The government had, last week, submitted to the Supreme Court in sealed envelopes details of 627 account holders in the HSBC Bank's Geneva branch. There is a court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing into black money stashed away in foreign accounts.

The aim of the DTAT, that India has signed with over 80 countries and plans to sign more with others, is to avoid double taxation of income. Some of the major countries are the US, Britain, the UAE, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, New Zealand and Mauritius.

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