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Black money holders may get red carpet in Budget 2012
Put resource crunch, rising subsidy bills, a weakening economy, and political pressure over black money and corruption, and the answer points in one direction: amnesty to crooks.
India has never been good at catching wrong-doers, whether of the violent variety or of the greedy type. This is why even after the French government hands us a list of over 700 Swiss account holders of HSBC Bank, there is no effort made to unmask the guilty. Instead, the government is busy collecting tax dues clandestinely from them (Read here).
On Monday, the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), AP Singh, created a mild flutter when he claimed that $500 billion of Indian money was stashed away abroad. But just in case you think he is going to strain every sinew to bring some of it back, forget it. Reading his lips, all one can discern is that there is not going to be any major effort to chase the money. Instead, the preferred option will be to plead with the crooks to bring at least some of the money back and all will be forgiven.
The budget may lay the red carpet for India’s black money mongers. Reuters
This, in fact, is the key takeout of another report on black money submitted by a committee headed by MC Joshi, a former Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes. Unlike Singh, the committee did not have any numbers on the quantum of black money held here or abroad, but it did suggest an amnesty scheme for those who have robbed us in the past by salting away their ill-gotten wealth abroad.
Even while taking potshots at the two main political parties for generating black money during the election process, the Joshi committee went on to suggest that money stashed abroad should be brought back by a tax-and-forgive policy. It said: “The Central Government may consider bringing a compliance scheme with reduced penalties, and immunity from prosecution, especially to bring back money kept abroad,” reports The Indian Express.
CBI’s Singh, while addressing the First Interpol Global Programme on Anti-Corruption and Asset Recovery, more or less gave the committee’s idea of amnesty legitimacy by talking about how difficult it is to recover this black money. He said: “Managing the asset recovery investigation is complex, time consuming, costly and, most importantly, requires expertise and political will.”
He, of course, did not specify whose political will he was talking about, since he could not be seen as criticising his own government. However, reading between the lines, it is clear he believes that chasing the money is not worth the candle, since modern financial systems aid the quick transfer of money.
Talking of the CBI’s own experience in running after dirty money, he said: “In some of the recent important cases being investigated by the CBI such as 2G, CWG and Madhu Koda, we find that money is taken to Dubai/Singapore/Mauritius from where it goes to Switzerland and other such tax havens. For criminals, all it involves is setting up of a few shell companies and then making layered transfers from one account to another in a matter of hours as there are no boundaries in banking transactions.”
More intriguingly, Singh quoted the Indian adage – Yatha Raja, Yatha Praja (as the ruler, so is the population). Quite obviously, he was not talking about A Raja, but the entire political leadership of the country – both those in government and in opposition.
The implications of Singh’s statements are this:
•We may never really get back the money robbed by the scamsters in the 2G, CWG and Madhu Koda scams. Most of the money trail in the 2G scam, for example, leads to Mauritius and Switzerland, but the CBI has gotten nowhere with it.
•Clearly, there is no political will to go after the people who robbed the exchequer through their scams – and this goes beyond 2G and CWG to the various illegal mining scandals and land scams, all of which generate black money in hundreds of crores.
•Singh also seemed to suggest that the laborious process of asset recovery is too daunting for the CBI. “Not only is it a specialised legal process filled with delays and uncertainty, but there are also language barriers and a lack of trust when working with other countries.”
The bottomline: very little of the illegal wealth kept abroad is going to come back – at least not through official efforts. Singh is content to outline the problem and leave it there.
The government’s own actions suggest that it is less keen on going after the crime than in seeing how it can get some money from the process. This is where the Joshi committee’ suggestions for creating a “compliance scheme” with immunity from prosecution will come in.
The budget may lay the red carpet for India’s black money mongers.
(Source: firstpost , Date: 14/02/2012)