Stash accounts secret: FM

New Delhi, Jan. 25: Slammed by the Opposition and the Supreme Court over the issue of black money stashed abroad, the government defended itself on Wednesday by saying that it has put in place a five-pronged strategy to tackle it. At the same time, it said that it cannot disclose the names of Indians with black money in Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank and information given by other countries owing to the absence of a legal framework.

The government also said that it does not have any reliable estimates of the amount of black money in accounts both within the country and outside.

Speaking on behalf of the government, the Union finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, said on Tuesday that the information on black money held by Indian account holders “has come under some conditions of secrecy”. He added, “If we disclose this tomorrow, other countries will not give me the information, raising an accusing finger that you do not meet international commitments.”

Mr Mukherjee’s press conference came after the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, reportedly asked him to put in the public domain the government’s position on the issue of black money during the Cabinet meeting last week. The Supreme Court too asked the government last week why it could not disclose the names and how it proposes to deal with the problem. On Tuesday, Mr Mukherjee said the information on black money had been provided to the SC in a “sealed envelope”.

He added, “Even I have no intention or authority of knowing the names. The income-tax officers have statutory powers under which they perform their duties and they are outside the purview of the administrative control of the ministry.” However, he added: “There is a way. As and when the I-T authorities will be in a position to prosecute cases against tax evaders you will come to know.”

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