New Delhi, November 7, 2017

India's tax authorities were already investigating some of the offshore accounts revealed in the Paradise Papers global expose on investments that individuals and business houses made in, and routed through, tax havens.

A reconstituted multi-agency group will also monitor investigations related to the Paradise Papers. The tax department has alerted its officials to use the additional information now available to aid inquiries.

"We find that some of the cases are already under our probe," Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman Sushil Chandra told ET.

"Any latest information will be further investigated." The Paradise Papers refer to documents leaked from Appleby, an offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and elsewhere. They include nearly 7 million loan agreements, financial statements, emails, trust deeds and other paperwork over nearly 50 years.

The data will be matched with the income tax returns filed by the entities involved to check for discrepancies. "All directors general, investigation, have been alerted. Any actionable intelligence would be acted upon," Chandra said.

Another official said individuals and entities that declared foreign assets under the disclosure scheme in 2015 will benefit from the immunity that it provides.

The multi-agency group looking at the Paradise Papers cases will be headed by the CBDT chairman and include representatives of the Enforcement Directorate, Reserve Bank of India and the Financial Intelligence Unit, CBDT said in a press release.

It also said the income tax department's investigation units have been alerted to take note of the revelations for immediate appropriate action. "It has been reported that many cases of offshore entities are already under investigation on fast track. As soon as further information surfaces, swift action as per law will follow," it said.

The I-T department will issue notices seeking information on overseas assets named in media reports within a fortnight, said people aware of the matter. The persons named may be nudged to file affidavits stating they have no such accounts. If they don't do so, they will come under suspicion. They can also be asked to give statements on oath.

As for whether leaked or stolen data can be used for reassessment, it's a grey area said the people cited above. The stand taken by assessing officers is that it can be used since the department has not stolen the data and the information is in the public domain.

The Paradise Papers, based on reporting under the aegis of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, indicate that out of 180 countries represented in the data of offshore entities held by persons of different nationalities, India ranks 19 in terms of number of names. The Indian Express on Monday reported about the Indian links in the documents.

The CBDT statement said 714 Indians reportedly appear in the tally. The leaked documents include files from a smaller, family owned trust company, Asiaciti (Singapore), and from company registries in 19 secrecy jurisdictions, it said.

[The Economic Times]