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Corporate Jun 9, 2011

Many Gandhis on ‘black money’ list, but it’s not them

By Firstbiz Editors

Baba Ramdev wants the government to bring back the black money stashed abroad. He was sent packing after midnight last Saturday-Sunday. Anna Hazare is starving himself in stages to get the Jan Lokpal Bill legislated in order to tackle corruption in high places. Congress spokesmen have accused him of harbouring "fascist" tendencies.

The Supreme Court has been asking the UPA government to disclose the names of those already known to the tax authorities for depositing their wealth in tax havens like Liechstenstein. The government demurred, citing non-disclosure agreements with the Germans.

Many of these names have been in the public domain for months, but curiously, given all the selective leaks that government agencies have resorted to, there are minor mismatches between the various lists.Getty Images

The BJP has been talking endlessly about the same issue, putting the government on the backfoot. The Congress has counter-attacked, claiming it has done more to get black money back than anyone else in the past.

And lo, behold, overnight The Indian Express has leaked a list of 18 names with the amount of money stashed abroad and the tax penalties imposed. Significantly, most of the names on the list are Gujaratis, with some Marwari businessmen also making it. There are no big names, only minnows from the Indian business world. The Gandhis - not the ones you are thinking of - are the most prominent names on the list.

Just coincidence? Makes one wonder, since most of the names were disclosed months ago by Tehelka?

The UPA government has been extremely reluctant to track down black money in overseas accounts. Even when overseas governments offered to share details of names they had come across of Indian-origin account holders in tax havens abroad, it hasn't responded with alacrity.

Yet, in the list of names of alleged account holders in a Liechtenstein-based bank, which government agencies have been leaking to media outlets from time to time, the names of a few Gujarati businessmen and their families find prominent and repeated mention.

Thursday's edition of The Indian Express lists the names of 18 individuals with accounts in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, the amounts they have allegedly stashed away, and the tax penalty levied on them.

These 18 names are part of a larger list of 26 Indian names that figured on a rollcall of 1,400 account holders that a former LGT Bank employee gave to German tax authorities in 2008. (A backgrounder to that case can be had here.)

Of the 26 Indian names, five were found to be non-resident Indians, who were therefore considered outside the purview of prosecution. Of the remaining 21, The Indian Express reports, prosecution could be launched only against 18. (It's not immediately clear why the three others could not be prosecuted.)

Many of these names have been in the public domain for months, but curiously, given all the selective leaks that government agencies have resorted to, there are minor mismatches between the various lists.

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by Firstbiz Editors

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