No person with India links in Bahamas leaks, so not investigating it: Multi Agency Group to HC
The Multi Agency Group (MAG), set up by the Centre to probe companies and individuals named in the Panama and Paradise papers, on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it was not investigating the Bahamas leaks as no person with Indian links was mentioned in it. The submission by MAG before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar came pursuant to a plea filed in the high court seeking investigation into complaints of money laundering and black money against a former Rajya Sabha MP, his wife and some of his companies, who allegedly received funds from entities named in the Bahamas leaks.
The petition by Bhupendra Singh Patel has alleged that the politician, his wife and some of his companies received around Rs 18 crore from some Bahamian shell companies named in the leaks. Patel has also alleged "deliberate inaction" by the MAG and the central government in acting on the "gravely suspicious investments" made in Indian entities by some shell companies incorporated in Bahamas and revealed in the leaks.
The court, after perusing the plea, had on the last date asked the head of MAG to file an affidavit indicating under which authority it was functioning, its composition, its powers and jurisdiction and the progress made in the investigation into the complaint by Patel against the former MP. Answering the court's queries, MAG has said in its affidavit that since the complaint against the politician was with regard to unaccounted money being brought into India through foreign companies, the issue has been forwarded to the Director General of Income Tax for investigation.
The agency said the petitioner's complaint has been taken up as a tax-evasion petition as per norms, as it does not fall within the purview of the mandate given to MAG, and was being investigated by the tax department. On the issue of its powers and jurisdiction, MAG has said that it was set up pursuant to the office memorandums of April 4, 2016, and November 6, 2017, which were issued after publication of news reports on the Panama and Paradise papers, respectively.
"MAG has been constituted by the Government of India through an administrative order to facilitate effective coordinated action by member agencies with a mandate to coordinate and monitor expeditious investigation into the cases with India links emanating out of Panama and Paradise paper leaks only," the agency has said in its affidavit filed on behalf of its convenor — the chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT). The agency, which comprises officials from CBDT, Enforcement Directorate, RBI and Financial Intelligence Unit, has also denied allegations of inaction levelled against it in the petition and sought that it be dismissed as the petitioner's complaint was being investigated by the tax department.
Bahamas leaks comprise a cache of documents, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), providing names of politicians, companies and others linked to over 175,000 Bahamian companies registered between 1990 and 2016. Patel, in his plea, has sought directions to MAG and the ministry to "take cognisance" of the allegations he has made in his complaint, carry out a "speedy probe" into them and "take consequential action".
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